Luncheon with Katsuya Okada, President of Democratic Party of Japan
In a small informal luncheon, Okada discussed the objectives of Japan main opposition party, the Democratic Party of Japan, which made impressive gains in the July 11 upper-house election. Okada expressed confidence that Japan is developing a British-style two-party system, and that the nearly continuous postwar dominance of the Liberal Democratic Party is near an end.
Okada expressed hopes for strong U.S.-Japan relations, though he opposes Japanese troop deployment in Iraq. Such deployment is, he maintained, both unpopular and unconstitutional. He argued that Japan should 1) amend its constitution to better define its overseas role, and 2) take part only in UN-mandated missions.
He called for increased economic reform, decentralization, and free-market competition. He underscored the urgency of addressing such problems as long-term debt (currently 143 percent of GNP) and a rapidly aging society.
Regarding North Korea, Okada emphasized that the nuclear and abduction issues must be resolved before Japan can normalize relations and provide economic assistance. In the long run, North Korea has no choice but to undertake China-style economic reforms.
In the off-the-record discussion that followed Okada's remarks, several participants questioned him on the speed of constitutional reform and the prospects for increased foreign investment.