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Wednesday, April 28, 2010

JCP agrees with U.S. on nukes, not bases: Shii

Staff writer

The Japanese Communist Party has welcomed President Barack Obama's efforts to create a world free of nuclear weapons and believes cooperation is possible, party Chairman Kazuo Shii said in an interview ahead of his visit to the U.S., the first ever by a JCP leader.

News photo
Kazuo Shii

Setting aside Washington's nuclear disarmament efforts, however, Shii was quick to point out that the JCP remains critical of U.S. military policies.

Shii, 55, who is traveling to the U.S. from Friday to May 8 to attend a conference to review the Nonproliferation Treaty in New York that starts May 3, will become the first JCP leader to visit the country since the party was founded in 1922.

His visit has aroused speculation that the JCP — traditionally critical of the U.S. — has taken up a more conciliatory approach, although Shii brushed aside such talk, saying his party "was not anti-American."

"We won't blindly assume everything the U.S. does as wrong but will evaluate its policies from multiple angles and are willing to recognize any positive changes," Shii said Monday.

The leader of Japan's fourth-largest political party said Obama's visit to Prague last April, when he outlined his vision of a nuclear weapon-free world, prompted him to send a letter to express his support for the president's speech.

"Of course, differences in opinion on how to approach nuclear abolition do exist between us and the U.S. government, but from a broader perspective I believe we can cooperate on this issue," he said.

Shii said his visit's main purpose will be to hold meetings with U.N. officials and representatives of nations attending the conference to convey the JCP's vision on issues relating to nuclear weapons.

He said he intends to head to Washington afterward to meet with government officials, although his schedule has yet to be confirmed.

However, Shii said the JCP stands firmly against other issues involving Japan-U.S. relations, including the relocation of U.S. Marine Corps Air Station Futenma.

"Regarding Futenma, its unconditional dismantlement is the only solution," he said, adding that he also conveyed the JCP's stance to U.S. Ambassador John Roos during a recent meeting.

"And I believe yesterday's rally was a landmark event," he said, referring to the massive rally held Sunday in Yomitan, Okinawa Prefecture, where an estimated 90,000 people joined local politicians to call for the removal of the Futenma base and to vent their anger toward the administration of Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama for dragging the issue out.

Before the Democratic Party of Japan swept into power last September, Hatoyama vowed that he would try to transfer the airfield out of the prefecture or even abroad, and has set a self-imposed deadline to settle the issue by the end of May.

"The voice of Okinawa was united," said Shii, who attended the rally alongside mayors of the 41 municipal governments in the prefecture and representatives of all the major political parties.

"The residents have displayed a firm resolution that creating a new base in Okinawa is an impossibility — our government needs to realize that fact," he said.

The JCP has been calling for terminating the Japan-U.S. military alliance and dismantling all U.S. military bases in the country. With this year marking the 50th anniversary of the Japan-U.S. security treaty, Shii, 55, said his party would like to see the two nations build a "truly equal" relationship.

"Whether looking at the situation regarding the U.S. bases in Japan or the Japan-U.S. Status of Forces Agreement, it cannot be said that the two nations stand on an equal footing," he said.

"The structure of the security treaty itself forces Japan to take a subordinate role. I believe that forming a national consensus on the elimination (of the security treaty) will be increasingly important" in the future, he said.

With the Upper House election coming up in a few months, Shii, whose party currently claims 16 Diet seats, was critical of the recent launch of several new political parties.

On Friday, former health minister Yoichi Masuzoe formed Shinto Kaikaku with five other lawmakers from the Liberal Democratic Party and minor opposition party Kaikaku Club.

Earlier in the month, veteran lawmakers Takeo Hiranuma and Kaoru Yosano assembled a group of other LDP defectors to form Tachiagare Nippon (Sunrise Party of Japan), while Hiroshi Yamada, the mayor of Suginami Ward, Tokyo, formed a party with fellow heads of local governments.

"These are the people responsible for enforcing past LDP policies — they won't be a force behind building a new Japan without repenting that fact," he said.

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The Japan Times

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