Edward W Desmond. Foreign Affairs. Volume 74, Issue 5. September 1995.
When Ichiro Ozawa, a long time Diet member and power broker, published Blueprint for a New Japan two years ago, his main goat was to reverse the country’s reluctance to play a larger role in world affairs. Ozawa, at that time a senior leader of the Liberal Democratic Party (LOP), was obsessed with Tokyo’s refusal to provide on-the-ground support for the U.S-led forces during the Persian Gulf War, despite repeated requests from Washington. He called the episode a defeat whose origins could be traced to the “politics of indecision and the lack of a clear center in Japanese politics. Unless Japanese politicians revised the rudderless postwar system, Ozawa argued, the country would go the way of ancient Carthage, whose “belief that wealth alone could sustain a nation ultimately caused its demise.”
Since then, Ozawa’s complaints about the failure of Japan’s leadership have grown even more acute. The Kobe earthquake, which left more than 5,500 dead in January, is the most prominent and tragic example. Socialist Prime Minister Tomiichi Muayama vacillated, unsure of his own powers; ministries responded with detachment and little coordination; and the military waited for deployment orders that came too late. In the eyes of the Japanese, the tragedy easily surpassed the Persian Gulf War as a display of systemic paralysis.
The lack of a sure-handed economic policy is yet another unaddressed crisis. Japan is in its fourth year of near-zero growth, and the strong yen is driving industry offshore at an unprecedented rate. Banks face a bad debt burden estimated at as much as $1 trillion, nearly a quarter of GDP. Japan obviously needs to shed much of its old Japan Inc. thinking and build up the consumer side of the economy through deregulation and market openings. Most banking experts agree that the banks must be bailed out. But these policy shifts are too much to expect from Japan’s powerful but narrowly focused bureaucrats.
Before its breakup and defeat in the 1993 general elections, the LDP might have been able to provide the needed leadership on the economy, if only because it was intertwined with Japan’s business sector and the bureaucracy. But today that so-called iron triangle is fractured. Scandal after scandal has depleted the credibility of the Liberal Democrats, who are the largest partner in Murayama’s coalition. They are divided among themselves and preoccupied with maneuvering for the next lower house election, which must take place by mid-1997. Absent a political center, bureaucrats are freer than ever to pursue narrow agendas, such as trade disputes with the United States or ministry prerogatives. Big business, despairing of a more rational economic policy, is struggling to cope with the strong yen and to preserve the shaky social contract promising lifetime employment.
The uneasiness in Japan is a far cry from the mood two years ago, when Morihiro Hosokawa, the reformist “Mr. Clean,” formed the first non-LDP government in 38 years with the help of Ozawa’s breakaway group. In a remarkable eight months, Hosokawa and Ozawa delivered much that had eluded several previous prime ministers, including electoral reform, a relatively thorough apology for Japan’s actions in World War II, the opening of the rice market, and initial steps toward deregulation. Hosokawa’s popularity ratings hit an all-time high, but he stepped down in the face of alleged financial irregularities.
Today the reform agenda is in a deep freeze, but there is little doubt voters want it back. The winners in mayoral elections in Tokyo and Osaka this year are both former television personalities who campaigned as first-time politicians with strong antiestablishment platforms. The incumbent Murayama government represents a lull in the effort to reform Japan’s political order, to build what Ozawa calls a “normal” nation. But there is little question that the issues Blueprint posed two years ago are even more urgent today.
For the moment, and perhaps for good, Ozawa is a reformer at bay. A serious heart attack in 1991 still limits his pace, and a constant hammering in the press, which has never liked the LDP insider, has pinched his popularity. In June 1994 Ozawa, then the chief strategist of the Tsutomu Hata government, made a series of tactical mistakes that shattered Hata’s brief rule and brought the Murayama coalition to power. As a result Ozawa is in the political wilderness for the first time in his life, where he is struggling to preserve the unity of his loose-knit group of ex-LDP followers in the New Frontier Party, many of whom are sorely tempted to accept LDP offers to return to the fold. At least until the strong showing of Ozawa’s New Frontier Party in upper-house elections in July, most of Japan’s political commentators believed that Ozawa was finished and that the LDP was likely to prevail in the next lower-house elections.
Even if they are right, Ozawa can claim credit for the leading role in the opening stages of Japan’s efforts to break free of the Cold War mold. He not only identified the issues facing Japan but masterminded the breakup of the LDP and the coalition government that knocked his old party from power for the first time in 38 years. He has given form and movement to ideas that will change Japan, regardless of his own political future.
The Meiji Parallel
Ozawa is steeped in the lore of the Meiji era, and he sees strong parallels between himself and the men who overthrew the Tokugawa shogunate in 1867. As a youth, Ozawa was reserved, studious, and constantly exhorted by his strong-willed mother to live up to Meiji values, a puritanical code of behavior that stressed modesty and aphorisms like “men don’t cry” and “don’t complain, don’t make excuses.” Young Ozawa was particularly attracted to the visionaries who overthrew the Tokugawa shogunate. Even today he maintains that the Meiji era was Japan’s finest because his ancestors ventured into the world and adapted for Japan what they found in industry, education, the military, and politics. Ozawa devotes a glowing chapter in Blueprint to the accomplishments of Meiji leaders like Toshimichi Okubo and Hirobumi Ito.
Ozawa shares certain qualities with the men who overthrew the Tokugawa shogunate and launched the Meiji reforms. Like Ozawa, they were privileged members of the elite, and their desire for radical change stemmed from practical experience and insights. They were better acquainted than most of their peers, for example, with Western military technology and its dangerous implications for a backward Japan. Commodore Matthew Perry’s “black ships” were symbolic of that threat. Ozawa’s comparable insight stems from his role as a facilitator in the U.S-Japan trade talks and the high-stakes discussion about the Persian Gulf War. In the aftermath of the Cold War, Ozawa argues, the danger is again systemic senility: the LDP establishment’s inability to see beyond narrow issues tied to particular constituencies, such as protection of rice farmers or careful adherence to the constitution’s pacifist Article Nine. Ozawa’s influential Blueprint is a plea for Japan to wake up to the need for a new system of politics and governance, especially better leadership from politicians.
His prescriptions would be familiar to Americans: a healthy, contentious two-party system; single-member voting districts; a decisive, strong prime ministership; greater devolution of power to local government; legislation protecting workers from long hours, as well as sex and age bias; and extensive deregulation. He also argues that Japan should raise its profile in world diplomacy by supporting U.N. peacekeeping operations, even those that require sending combat troops abroad. In sum, he wants to create a Japan that accepts the responsibilities of a great power and invites envy because of its quality of life. His goal, he writes, is for people to think of a “Japanese dream” in the same way people the world over understand the American dream.
Ozawa’s countrymen regard his recommendations with a mixture of approval and apprehension. His book sold a remarkable 700,000 copies, and readers were enthralled with his candor about how politics in Japan actually works. “The government itself is scattered among many institutions and interests,” he writes, for example. “No overarching institution exists to coordinate and control the whole…The cabinet meeting nominally–Japan’s supreme decision-making body–is an empty institution.” Others have made similar observations, but coming from a politician of Ozawa’s stature and inside experience, the criticisms suddenly became bedrock, a given reformers could cite without question.
By the same token, Japanese are well aware of Ozawa’s checkered past, and they are not convinced that he is committed to delivering on a broader social agenda that includes proposals for a shorter work week. After all, Ozawa is a classic workaholic, a blue-suited politician who does business in the smoke-filled restaurants of posh Nagatacho, far from the public eye. His commitment to social goals does not seem half as convincing as Hosokawa’s, if only because the former prime minister has a casual, tennis-playing lifestyle that charmed the country. More credible is Ozawa’s determination to sharpen the powers of Japan’s leaders and push the country onto the world stage, even as a participant in U.N.-sanctioned military operations. In Japan, those ambitions stir mixed emotions. Rather than the respected, self-confident reformers of the Meiji era, the Japanese remember the authoritarian leaders of the 1930s who abused their power and drove the nation to war.
A Political Home
Ozawa, currently the secretary-general of the opposition New Frontier Party, has almost single-handedly shaped the debate about how Japan should change. He is also a figure beset with contradictions. Ozawa epitomizes what Japan has been–low-profile, cautious, industrious, and opaquely corrupt. He was a classic backroom LDP manipulator, a chief lieutenant to two of the LDP’s most corrupt faction bosses, Kakuei Tanaka and Shin Kanemaru. Ozawa served the latter as his foremost dealmaker and personally made and broke a series of LDP prime ministers. In short, Ozawa’s transformation into crusader for a more open, “normal” political system strikes many of his countrymen as opportunism or, worse, hypocrisy. Those labels may fit, but Ozawa’s close links to the old bankrupt establishment probably do more to qualify than disqualify him as a reformer.
Like a third of the members of the Diet’s lower house, Ozawa, 53, is a second-generation legislator. His father, Saeki Ozawa, came to prominence in a remarkable rags-to-politics odyssey after the war. The elder Ozawa started out as the runaway son of a ne’er-do-well farmer, but by the end of his career he was revered in his local district, in rural Iwate prefecture, and had served in several LDP cabinets. He is especially remembered for his spirited battles with Japan’s socialists over two issues, the 1960 revision of the U.S-Japan Security Treaty and the introduction of single-seat electoral districts. The LDP won the first battle, but only last year did the Diet finally change the electoral system, thanks in large part to the efforts of Ozawa’s son, Ichiro.
When his father died in 1968, Ozawa was nearly finished with his law studies and wanted to take the bar exam. His father’s coterie in Iwate, however, persuaded him to drop his lawyerly ambitions and run in his father’s place. Ozawa won the seat in the 1969 general election at the age of 27–at that time the youngest legislator ever elected to the Diet.
LDP politicians need patrons, and Ozawa sought the favor of Kakuei Tanaka, the self-made construction magnate with a junior high school education who was rapidly becoming the most powerful man in Japanese politics. Tanaka pioneered what the Japanese call “money politics”–the shakedown ‘business, especially construction companies, or for the yen equivalent of millions of dollars in under-the-table donations. Tanaka’s iconoclastic, high-energy leadership attracted Ozawa, who was not impressed by then-Prime Minister Eisaku Sato. In 1992 Ozawa explained to one of his biographers, Kensuke Watanabe, the appeal of Tanaka: “My generation was tired of the long-lasting Sato cabinet. It was probably my father’s influence, but I had strong antipathy for politics by bureaucrats. Sato was called the town’s accountant, and for better or worse he was a typic postwar politician. He was stable but showed no inclination to reform. Tanaka was cheerful and active, a remarkable contrast with Sato.”
Tanaka liked the unassuming, straight-talking young Ozawa, and in later years often said Ozawa was like a son to him. He arranged his protege’s marriage to Kazuko Fukuda, whose family owns Fukuda Gumi, a powerful construction company in Niigata. Such unions were the equivalent of dynasty-building in the Tanaka era: the fusion of construction company money and LDP influence in public works was unbeatable. Such arrangements also foreshadowed the profound corruption that hounds the LDP to this day.
An Unloved Politician
Ozawa represented the core of the LDP power structure, but he is a surprisingly unpopular man, even in political circles. He is frequently accused of lacking giri (obligation) and ninjo (human feeling), cardinal virtues among the Japanese. In 1985, for example, Ozawa quit Tanaka’s faction when it became clear the political boss was doomed after his conviction in a lower court on charges of accepting a 500-million-yen bribe in connection with Japan Airlines’ purchase of Lockheed TriStar airliners. His move made sense, but it was not admired. His friends explain that Ozawa is uncommonly rational, ready to act on logic rather than worry about others’ feelings. Ozawa’s lack of the common touch is partly the result of his privileged political upbringing. Unlike most young LDP politicians, he did not have to learn to glad-hand to win votes and campaign contributions. Ozawa rarely visits his Iwate constituency; his wife looks after his political interests there.
As a chief lieutenant to LDP Vice President Shin Kanemaru until his downfall, Ozawa earned a reputation for arrogance. He is frequently accused of having a dictatorial personality, which, in translation, means he is impatient, unwilling to wait for a consensus, and dismissive of respect for senior leaders–all jarring qualities in Japan. He was taken to task, for example, for demanding to “interview” his much-senior colleagues, Michio Watanabe, Kiichi Miyazawa, and Hiroshi Mitsuzuka, for the job of prime minister in 1989. They bitterly resented his presumption.
The public has an uncomfortable sense that Ozawa’s past behavior has not been squared with justice. His close friend and mentor in the party, Kanemaru, was indicted on tax evasion charges in 1993 in connection with immense contributions from the now-defunct Sagawa Kyubin trucking company. Kanemaru resigned from the Diet and the party and is currently on trial. Witnesses identified Ozawa as a party to talks where the illegal deals were allegedly made, but in Diet testimony Ozawa said that he was too busy bringing drinks and cleaning ashtrays to understand what was going on. Few people in Japan found this believable, although as of this writing Ozawa has not been charged in connection with that scandal or any other.
Most of the daily newspapers, especially the liberal Asahi Shimbun, a national daily based in Tokyo, are deeply skeptical of Ozawa for these reasons, and they fear that his calls for strong leadership mask hidden reactionary, nationalistic views. To some extent the papers also mirror the widespread anxiety that talk of strong leadership still elicits in Japan, where some believe that weak, fragmented power is the best guarantee for avoiding the excesses of the 1930s.
Ozawa arouses suspicions because there is an ambiguity about his nationalism. Among his closest friends are politicians who are more or less open apologists for Japan’s behavior in World War II. Where the war is concerned, Ozawa is not full of moral anguish, but he sees the need to make amends in a practical light. As he said in an interview last year: “From [the rest of Asia’s] point of view, Japan invaded them, and it is natural that they should see it that way. Justice is a term that is used when many people see something as being just, even if God does not view it that way. Therefore Japan did not wage a just war.”
Thus Ozawa more or less keeps his distance from the apologists among his friends. To an outsider, Ozawa is clearly a statist, perhaps a Bismarckian, a leader who wants to pursue national interests within a stable international order. Ozawa was quite at home with U.S. President George Bush’s concept of a “new world order” and would like to see Japan cast off those aspects of Article Nine orthodoxy that inhibit the country’s ability to play a greater diplomatic and military role in ensuring global stability.
Nevertheless, the press’ unwillingness to accept the new Ozawa at face value has brought out the intolerant side of his hard-edged personality. He has banned reporters who “misreported” what he said and has shown little inclination to win over his antagonists–an unwise stance for a politician trying to demonstrate his commitment to a new, more open brand of politics. To be fair, however, it is important to note that some of the papers are clearly engaged in a highly partisan campaign. In one riposte, Ozawa reminded reporters that in the 1930s their newspapers called anyone who rejected the emperor and military rule a traitor. “Now it is the same,” he said. “Anyone whose opinion does not fit within the media’s Justice framework, including me, they call an authoritarian or a nationalist or a right-winger.” Ozawa, ever the realist, knows that it is unlikely he would ever be a very effective prime minister in the face of such suspicion, which is why he continues to stick to his old role as backroom strategist.
By the time of the Kanemaru scandal in 1992, Ozawa was a changed man. He did not turn his back on his politically dubious past, but he was convinced that government as usual under the LDP was no longer good enough for Japan. His epiphany came during the Persian Gulf War. Ozawa, who was the LDP secretary-general at the time, met repeatedly with American officials who stressed that Japan must play an active role in the coalition or face the charge that Japan was taking a “free ride” while the United States paid with the lives of its soldiers. Ozawa was eager to comply, but even his proposals for a modest on-the-ground contribution died in the party and the Diet. Regardless of other national interests, very few legislators in any party were prepared to risk public wrath by putting Japanese troops in harm’s way or challenging the prevailing interpretation of Article Nine.
Subsequently, Ozawa fought to organize an immense financial contribution of nearly $13 billion for the war effort. To win its passage, Ozawa made a deal with Komeito, the Buddhist Clean Government Party, to back its candidate against a five-term LDP incumbent in the 1991 Tokyo gubernatorial election. The Ozawa-Komeito candidate lost, which led Ozawa to resign his party post, but the appropriation passed. Two months later Ozawa suffered a serious heart attack.
For Ozawa, the Persian Gulf War revealed that Japan in the 1990s was fundamentally incapable of acting in its national interest. Narrow-minded politicians had put the vital U.S-Japan relationship at risk over the Gulf War, and Ozawa was determined to avoid a repetition of the crisis. Ozawa’s concern with foreign affairs deepened, and in 1991 he created a semi-secret association of bureaucrats and academics calling itself the 21st Century Study Group to discuss the issues confronting Japan. Their papers were the foundation for Blueprint.
The Gulf War also convinced Ozawa that Japan must reform its political scene to encourage decisive leadership, especially in foreign affairs. The dominance of the LDP and the feckless opposition of the Social Democrats had corrupted serious politics, turning it into a game of vote-buying and influence-peddling. “Under the postwar political system, real, forthright debates between political parties and politicians do not take place,” he said in 1993. “Everyone is comfortable with a system in which you don’t engage in serious debate, you don’t take responsibility for anything, and you can be rather vague on most matters. That is the system we have to tear down. The time allowed to Japan is now running short.”
Like many other LDP members, Ozawa believes that the electoral system was a key part of the problem. Multimember districts for parliamentary elections made it easy for socialists to win a large share of the Diet seats, which meant that the wide spectrum of conservatives had to band together to stay in power. In the 1950s Ozawa’s father and others in the LDP tried to change the system to single-member districts, which would have pushed the socialists to the margins and allowed the LDP to split into two parties. The two conservative camps, so they hoped, would have alternated power and joined hands in key areas, such as amending offensive aspects of the U.S.-imposed constitution. But the socialists successfully resisted the effort. The result, throughout the Cold War, was LDP dominance and a limp, unconstructive socialist opposition that, as Ozawa delights in pointing out. has long been more or less in the pocket of the LDP.
The multimember districts also tend to encourage corruption. Candidates can win a seat by patronizing a small segment of the voters in the district–an interest group such as construction workers, rice farmers, or unionist–so long as that segment can deliver about 15 percent of the vote. The single-member district makes winning through patronage more difficult, and in theory should force the candidate to speak out clearly on national issues. In recent years the return to single-member districts has been sold to the public largely as an anticorruption measure, but in the eyes of Ozawa and others it is more important as a means to push the socialists out of politics and establish a healthy bipolar conservative competition.
In June 1993 Prime Minister Miyazawa, like his predecessor Kaifu, could not obtain sufficient party support to put through the single-member districts legislation. Many LDP members silently opposed the bill because it threatened their own seats. Ozawa and his allies saw an opportunity. They wanted to be on the right side of the corruption issue, and they were embattled within the party, where the breakup of the Kanemaru-Takeshita faction had left Ozawa with a rump group. In a momentous decision, Ozawa and his followers joined the noconfidence vote against Miyazawa, brought down the government, and left the party.
The bill, in a watered-down version that provides for a mix of seats filled through direct election in single-member districts and ones filled through proportional representation, was finally pushed through the Diet by Hosokawa and Ozawa in 1984, and it will provide the basis for the next national elections for the lower house. These could come as early as this year, but until then it is impossible to say what effect the new system will have. The country’s economic retreat is likely to do more to trim corruption than the new districts. Whether a more coherent government emerges depends on many variables, primarily the ability of a single party to post a clear-cut win.
If Ozawa and his New Frontier Party win, Japan will probably see change first where change encounters the least domestic opposition-defense and foreign policy, say. The slowest pace will be in areas like economic and government deregulation and administrative reform, where Ozawa, if he is true to his goals in Blueprint, will have to cross swords with his many friends in the bureaucracy and other interest groups. The reformist’s only allies may be trade friction and the steadily sinking economy, which will force the tempo.
A Foreign Policy That Stands Up
Ozawa may be out in the cold and Japan in disarray, but his views on foreign policy continue to propel small but steady changes in security and foreign policy. The disintegration of the Social Democrats, the keepers of Article Nine orthodoxy, has eased the way for some commonsense adjustments. The Diet late last year approved legislation to permit the use of military planes to rescue Japanese nationals in crisis situations abroad, for example; earlier this was considered impossible because of leftist opposition. After 12 years of negotiations, Japan and the United States are close to working out an agreement on military acquisitions and cross-servicing, similar to those of NATO allies, that has eluded Japan until now, again because of the left. Deployment of the Japan’s self-defense forces on noncombat U.N. missions is now routine, exciting little public interest, whereas the 1993 deployment of Japanese troops to Cambodia on a U.N. mission rocked the Miyazawa government.
The Kobe quake spurred better crisis planning in Tokyo and helped rehabilitate the military as a respectable part of society. Most Japanese applauded the work of army chemical warfare experts in cleaning up the subways in the capital after the Aum Shinrikyo gas attack in March. There were no protests when the experts took part in police raids on the cult’s installations. A few years ago, their presence alongside the police would have been unthinkable.
In the absence of leftist opposition, it is also likely that Japan’s Self-Defense Agency will be able to pursue two other high-priority projects, both of which will further the independence of Japanese defenses. One is a proposed theater missile defense system, a multibillion-dollar effort in collaboration with the United States, designed to give Japan a measure of protection against missile attack. The other is a quantum improvement in Japan’s defense intelligence capabilities, which are currently highly dependent on the United States. Japanese defense experts are increasingly uneasy about their reliance on the United States when it comes to critical subjects like assessing the potential North Korean nuclear threat. They fear that the Clinton administration’s generous settlement with North Korea over the development and use of nuclear fuel was more a product of Clinton’s domestic political weakness than a hardheaded analysis of Japanese and Korean interests. One key ambition of Japanese defense planners is a spy satellite, which would help Tokyo draw its own conclusions about regional threats.
This trend in defense and foreign affairs will lead Tokyo to a more articulate, assertive, and independent stance. Ozawa foreshadowed the change during the mini-crisis last year over North Korea. Mindful of the Persian Gulf fiasco, the Hata government took politically difficult steps to ensure it could back at least some tough measures against North Korea, such as cutting off the flow of money to North Korea from Chosen Soren, a wealthy North Korean support group in Japan. Ozawa was determined that Japan do its part.
On the other hand, after the mission of former U.S. President Jimmy Carter put Pyongyang and Washington on track for a settlement, Ozawa was openly critical of the promise to provide 500,000 tons of heavy oil and two light-water nuclear reactors in exchange for Pyongyang’s capping of its potentially threatening nuclear development program. The deal left many issues open to question. “As long as nuclear inspections are unsettled,” he said on a television program, “we should not provide financial cooperation.” Ozawa was in opposition when he made the remark; he might have felt differently had he been in power. But there is no doubt that he would insist on being a full partner, and an outspoken one, in dealings with the United States.
Ozawa, or at least the sensibility he represents, underlies the future of U.S-Japan relations, and his view of the United States is different from that of the older generation in the LDP. Postwar LDP leaders lived with a contradiction: they were ready to blindly take Washington’s lead on most foreign policy matters, but they were also deeply committed to Japan’s drive for economic primacy. When the two came into conflict, especially over trade, the LDP leadership practiced a kind of yes-and-no diplomacy that repeatedly poisoned the relationship with the United States.
Ozawa, who places immense importance on continued close security links with the United States and believes trade friction endangers the alliance, sees no reason to draw out talks and turn them into a hostile dispute, especially when American negotiators have a point. For some one with Ozawa’s firsthand understanding of politics, it is easy to see the reality–usually some complex set of special interest group relations–behind the stonewalling by Japanese trade negotiators. Ozawa has been an invaluable friend to American trade negotiators since 1988, when he settled the talks aimed at opening up Japanese public construction work to American businesses. Even last year, he was the catalyst for the breakthrough in cellular phone talks that helped Motorola’s business in Japan take off and dramatically reduced prices. On recent automobile talks, Ozawa would not have engaged in the damaging grandstanding of Ryutaro Hashimoto, the MITI minister and LDP prime ministerial hopeful; instead, he would have striven quietly to conclude a deal with the United States while avoiding guarantees of a market share to U.S. automakers in Japan.
At the same time, Ozawa is sure to be an outspoken, even critical ally of the United States, not an unquestioning follower of U.S. initiatives, as the old LDP leadership was. Ozawa firmly believes that the alliance is the key to Japan’s continued acceptance in the rest of Asia, and more recently he has stressed that Japan needs the United States to counterbalance an increasingly chauvinistic and menacing China. In that sense, Ozawa stands opposed to the “Asia first” arguments that have taken root in some conservative circles, egged on notably by former LDP legislator Shintaro Ishihara. Ozawa’s Japan would lobby Washington to play a strong role in Asian security while keeping a more constructive, critical distance than in the past. All the while, Japan will move toward a more independent security footing to hedge against Washington’s possible disengagement in the future.
The brake on Ozawa’s drive to make Japan a normal country in foreign and defense policy will come from the dovish side of the LDP. Leaders like Yohei Kono, president of the LDP, will accept practical changes but draw the line at reinterpretation of the constitution, increases in defense spending, or commitment of self-defense forces to U.N. combat operations. Such views reflect popular opinion, which is deeply conservative when it comes to departing from Japan’s head-in-the-sand postwar ethos.
Mindful of those limits, Ozawa has been careful to stress that Japan should commit its troops only under U.N. auspices (although he accepts the possibility of Japanese troops seeing military action), and he remains wary of amending the constitution. He argues, however, that a clause could be added to Article Nine stating that Japan’s forces may participate in U.N. peacekeeping operations. On Japanese membership in the U.N. Security Council, Ozawa adopts a mischievous position; he likes to say Japan is not yet ready to assume such a responsibility, a roundabout way of making the point that Japan’s leadership is not mature enough to handle the hard decisions demanded of Security Council members.
Ozawa’s vision for a more active Japanese foreign policy suffers from being boxed in by the U.N. framework; the U.N.’s record after the Cold War is a disappointment. Yet at the moment, the United Nations is the only vessel in which Ozawa can place his vision for Japan’s broader security. In Blueprint for a New Japan, Ozawa argues that his country, as a trading nation should follow the example of Venice in its days as a city-state, when it aggressively defended its vast trading empire, not the example of ancient Carthage, which foundered. Japan is beginning to face the implications of such a view, but it is far from ready to accept the leadership of Ichiro Ozawa.