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Wednesday, Aug. 19, 2009

Gingrich: U.S. ready for any election outcome

Staff writer

Coordination between Tokyo and Washington must continue to sustain security and democracy in the Asia-Pacific region regardless of how the Aug. 30 election turns out, Newt Gingrich, former speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives, said Tuesday.

Speaking to reporters during a three-day stay in Tokyo, Gingrich said the United States is ready to work together with whichever party wins, even if the Democratic Party of Japan wrests power from the Liberal Democratic Party.

"I have some idea what it's like to take on an entrenched system," said Gingrich, who in 1995 helped end 40 years of Democratic Party rule in the House of Representatives.

But he expressed comfort that DPJ President Yukio Hatoyama is showing signs of taking a "realistic" approach, for example by not advocating an immediate withdrawal of the Maritime Self-Defense Force from the Indian Ocean in what would be a sudden shift in Japanese diplomacy.

On the new U.S. ambassador to Japan, John Roos, who is scheduled to arrive in Tokyo on Wednesday, Gingrich said his list of tasks includes some thorny issues.

The relocation of U.S. bases in Japan is a "big part of the assignment" for Roos, he said, adding that the new ambassador must also tackle the stalemated abduction issue with North Korea.

Gingrich summarized the past 60 years of the U.S.-Japan relationship as providing security and prosperity for both countries, and that Roos must work to keep the momentum going.

Regarding the global economy, Gingrich said Japan and the U.S. are faced with surprisingly similar challenges, with both suffering from an "overly expensive" government that is "too slow" to take action for the public.

The two countries must go through a full makeover in fundamental structure, including the industrial and educational sectors, to compete with rising economies such as China and India, he said.

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