Japan's Power Shift and Its DPRK Policy



Many serious issues exist between Japan and North Korea (DPRK), such as nuclear, missile, abduction, and colonial issues. Progress on their resolution has been limited. Consequently, the two countries have remained unfriendly neighbors. Their relations recently deteriorated as a result of the DPRK's satellite launch and its second nuclear test in the first half of 2009, and Japan's strong response to them. In the middle of this period of significant tension, in August 2009, the Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ) won a landslide victory in the lower house elections, ending the dominance of the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) over the last half a century. This political sea change in Japan has not resulted in major improvements in the Japan–DPRK relations. Yet, the DPJ's stance toward the DPRK's military threat and the Japan–US alliance is different from that of the LDP. So far, the DPJ has opted to avoid following in the LDP's footsteps of strengthening the alliance and expanding Japan's military operations in response to the DPRK's military threat. Instead, it intends to increase Japan's independence from the USA, and reduce US military presence in Japan. Given such intentions, the DPJ seems willing to improve Japan's relations with the DPRK. The question is whether its willingness will be translated into real actions to bring about major improvements.