The general election in Japan is almost certain to end in a blowout win for the opposition Democratic Party of Japan, a ragtag collection of centrist and center-left opponents of the long-ruling LDP, many of whom have been strongly critical of the evolution of Japan’s security partnership with the United States. Among other things, the DPJ has criticized the use of Japanese naval vessels to refuel American ships en route to the Persian Gulf on grounds that it goes beyond narrow self-defense, thus violating the spirit of Japan’s postwar constitution.
Sensing that anti-Americanism might turn out to be a political loser, particularly since the Japanese want reassurance that the DPJ is a safe pair of hands, the party is now embracing a variety of positions that Americans can appreciate, including a call for a US-Japan free trade area. As Tobias Harris explains, an agreement that opened Japan’s agricultural market would transform the Japanese economy in deep and lasting ways. One can imagine the lower cost of living that would result having a salutary effect on Japanese birthrates. The transition, however, would be extremely painful, which is why the LDP is campaigning hard against the proposal.