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Thursday, Oct. 4, 2007
Hatoyama rips into Fukuda, wants poll
By MASAMI ITO
Yukio Hatoyama, secretary general of the Democratic Party of Japan, officially launched the opposition's battle Wednesday against Yasuo Fukuda in the Diet, pressing the new prime minister to dissolve the Lower House and call a general election.
As he stepped up to the plate as the DPJ's lead-off hitter to quiz and criticize the policy speech Fukuda delivered Monday, Hatoyama first took a swing at Fukuda's predecessor, Shinzo Abe, for "abandoning his government suddenly."
Hatoyama said Fukuda should dissolve the Lower House because of the results of the July Upper House election, in which the DPJ scored a major victory.
"It goes without saying that the responsibility (for Abe's abrupt departure) lies with the Liberal Democratic Party as a whole and its coalition partner, New Komeito, for permitting it," Hatoyama said. "I can't help but say that the LDP left a stain" on politics.
Fukuda responded by saying what is needed now is to earnestly work to regain the public's trust in politics.
"It is our political duty, exceeding the boundaries of ruling and opposition parties, to protect the lives of the public and to protect the nation's interests," Fukuda told the Lower House plenary session.
With the Diet divided — the ruling LDP holds sway in the Lower House while the DPJ and the other opposition parties control the Upper House — Fukuda is already in a tough spot.
Rather than employing the heavy-handed tactics of his nationalistic predecessor, under which several controversial bills were rammed through the Diet, Fukuda stressed the importance of holding thorough discussions with the opposition parties on key issues, including the consumption tax and disclosure of receipts regarding political funds.
Hatoyama stressed that the DPJ is against the Maritime Self-Defense Force's refueling mission in the Indian Ocean because it is not officially approved by the U.N.
As part of the counterterrorism operations in Afghanistan, the MSDF has been participating in the U.S.-led Operation Enduring Freedom — Maritime Interdiction Operations since December 2001.
The ruling coalition has been arguing that OEF-MIO operations have been mentioned in past U.N. resolutions, including the most recent U.N. Security Council resolution that included an expression of gratitude to the U.S.-led mission. Fukuda reiterated this response Wednesday.
"War does not end terrorism," Hatoyama countered. "Terrorism is caused by social ills like poverty, discrimination and suppression . . . and getting rid of such social ills and stabilizing the people's livelihood is an important pillar of antiterrorism measures and the foundation of peace."
Fukuda remained evasive on a possible consumption tax hike, saying only that a thorough discussion must be held immediately on reforming the overall tax system.
After the plenary session, Hatoyama told reporters he was extremely disappointed with Fukuda's responses.
"(Fukuda) just repeated exactly what the government officials told him to say," he said. "And when things become inconvenient, (Fukuda) said he intends to discuss" the issues with the opposition.