Finance Minister Fuji Resigns – First Blow to Japanese Prime Minister Hatoyama

Since becoming Prime Minister last September, Yukio Hatoyama has had a dedicated cabinet. The Prime Minister and his cabinet have stood fast to battle both a horrible economic downturn in Japan and also the many issues arising from an aging population. However in recent weeks concerns have risen in regards to his Finance Minister’s health (aged 77), in particular high blood pressure. The Prime Minister’s initial reaction was to try to keep him on regardless, as Fuji-san is one of his most experienced and capable cabinet members.

Last night however the Prime Minister called a press conference where he caved in to letting Finance Minister Fuji step down. Each newspaper reported a slightly different take on the event:

Yomiuri ” Next Finance Minister Nominated, he’ll share the position with Sengoku Yoshito” The Yomiuri reported that the Prime Minister had allowed Finance Minister Fuji to resign, and commented (like every other paper) that this is Prime Minister Hatoyama’s first resignation of his cabinet. There was an interesting word choice however used by Yomiuri in its text at the end, stating Sengoku Yoshito will be “forced” to share the position with the new finance minister. (兼務させる)

Asahi “The Prime Minister Announces the Finance Minister’s Successor” The Asahi mentions that Sengoku Yoshito, in order to relieve the burden on the Finance Minister’s successor, will “help with his duties.” They also reported that after long deliberation, the Prime Minister allowed the Finance Minister to resign his post. They also added that his successor, Mr. Kan, is well versed with the DPJ (Democratic Party of Japan) and his experiences with their Manifesto, etc.

Nikkei “Next Finance Minister will share responsibilities with Sengoku Yoshito” The Nikkei give a different spin on the event vs. Asahi. The last comment they made was that the Finance Minister had a large role in the administration, and his departure might have a huge impact on the Prime Minister’s administration.

Ozawa “Buddies Up” with the American Ambassador

Ichiro Ozawa was the main candidate for The Democratic Party of Japan, leading up to the election in September. Then leading up the summer he was rocked by a scandal that put his secretary potentially embezzling funds that he shouldn’t have been embezzling. He resigned, and the now current Prime Minister, Hatoyama, took over the Democratic Party of Japan, and ended up winning the prize of Prime Minister. The election was historic for Japan, in its 50 year history since WWII this was the first time the Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ) had taken the reigns of power from the Liberal Democratic Party, or (LDP).

Nevertheless, Ozawa-san has managed to hold onto power, both behind the scenes and as now the Secretary General of the Democratic Party of Japan. Each newspaper had a different take on Ozawa-san this morning and his meeting with the American ambassador to Japan, John Roos.

AsahiWe should be frank with each other.” The Asahi painted the meeting with the American Ambassador, John Roos, as a tough yet honest discussion. Sources within the DPJ, according to the Asahi, claimed that Ozawa exchanged opinions with the Ambassador about trade frictions during the LDP era. Ozawa-san said to the ambassador, “If America has an issues, I want you to clearly state them. Japan should also frankly state their opinions in return.”

YomiuriOver a drink, let’s talk about the past election.” The Yomiuri’s interpretation of the meeting between Ozawa and Roos was one of friendship, not one of frank speaking. They also had a different take on what Ozawa-san said to John Roos when he asked “If America has an issues, I would appreciate if you could you say them.” The Yomuri used “言ってもらいたい instead of the more direct form, 言ってほしい.

In the Yomiuri not just the language was different, but also what they talked about was apparently friendlier. Ozawa said “Even when I meet the American Ambassador, I can’t really say political things.” Ozawa then went on to say “I commend the majority the Democratic Party in the US has obtained. I also have experience with running a campaign, let’s grab a drink sometime and discuss it.”

NikkeiA new strand of the virus hospitalizes 445 people.” The Nikkei actually didn’t report on the meeting between the American Ambassador and Ozawa. This could partly be reflective of their lack of support for the new administration…

They instead talked about the Swine Flu, and the surprising impact it has had in the past week. 445 people were hospitalized, and a staggering 8,534 schools were closed due to the threat of flu. Over 50% of those schools were elementary, where as about 25% were middle schools.

Prime Minister Hatoyama Leaves Japan for the First Time

In early September Prime Minister Hatoyama and his party the DPJ (Democratic Party of Japan) won a historic election. For the first time since the second world war, the LDP (Liberal Democratic Party) is no longer in power, and the DPJ is now in the driver seat in the Japanese government. How things will change, and what this means for Japanese diplomacy, has yet to be seen.

Prime Minister Hatoyama left Japan with his wife last night for the United States, and for the G20 summit. Each Japanese newspaper reported something different about what policies and goals the Prime Minister would have on his first diplomatic mission.

AsahiPrime Minister Hatoyama Leaves for the U.S. for his Speech at the G20” The Asahi describes in their first paragraph how the Prime Minister sees this trip to the U.S. as his chance to really make an impression on world leaders. With this historic change in power, he wants to give the impression of a positive diplomatic change for the heads of state of China, Russia, and the U.S.

The Asahi focused on the ambitious goals for climate change that the new prime minister has. The former Prime Minister, Aso of the LDP, had placed a target of reducing greenhouse gases by 8% in comparison with 1990 levels. Prime Minister Hatoyama has placed a 25% reduction target, representing a change in focus for diplomacy going forward.

“I would like to have everything go smoothly. If possible I would like countries to gain our trust, even if just a little bit.” They also mentioned the theme of his presentation would be “friendship.”

Nikkei “Gaining Trust is our Number 1 Priority” The Nikkei’s theme of “gaining trust” is a large contrast to the Asahi’s “winds of change.” As a whole, these themes are probably representative of how the Asahi vs. how the Nikkei sees the change in political power. The Asahi welcomes change, and focuses on how the first diplomatic mission of the Prime Minister will hopefully demonstrate positive changes. The Nikkei focuses on how the Prime Minister will try to “gain trust,” insinuating even possibly that the Prime Minister will have to gain the Nikkei’s trust.

The Nikkei also mentions Hatoyama’s purpose of discussing global warming, but they also focus on issues such as Nuclear Proliferation, and of course the American / Japanese relationship.

Yomiuri “The Prime Minister Leaves for America” The Yomiuri surprisingly paid little attention to the Prime Minister’s first diplomatic mission. While both the Nikkei and the Asahi had the Prime Minister’s trip as front page and headline news, the Yomiuri stuck an article of 3 sentences towards their backpage in the political section. It was also like the 5th one down, below a political traffic scandal, an article on changing medicare policies in Japan, etc. The Yomiuri did mention one thing the other newspapers did not, and that is the Prime Minister will be visiting a nursing home during his trip to the U.S.