Chief Representative, New Komeito
Friday, June 12, 2015, 15:00 - 16:00
Natsuo Yamaguchi has described Komeito, the party he heads, as "an opposition party within the ruling party" to describe its role within Japan's ruling coalition with the Liberal Democrats (LDP). In practice, this means differences on virtually all key policies.
The LDP aims to switch on Japan's mothballed atomic reactors. Its junior partner quietly campaigned against nuclear power in the last two elections. Shinzo Abe, the prime minister, favors an increasingly hard-line approach with Beijing; Komeito, which has long-standing informal ties to the Chinese leadership, wants more talk and less sabre rattling.
The two parties ride uncomfortably sidesaddle on economic strategy too. Komeito has questioned Abe's decision to curtail the Bank of Japan's independence. Rank-and-file members of Komeito are also unhappy with the growing ranks of Japan's poor, which they partly blame on the LDP.
But it is on the issue of change to Japan's pacifist stance where the apparent differences between the two parties are strongest. The LDP is challenging the constitutional ban on collective defense, with potentially profound consequences for Asia. Its Buddhist-backed, pacifist partner rejects revision – its supporters call Komeito a "brake" on the LDP's ambitions.
Somehow, however, despite signs of friction, the parties have managed to work together. Komeito has shifted ground on self-defense policy without losing the support of its religious followers and the huge pool of voters who put them into power. But how far is the party willing to bend in the service of its much larger partner?
Yamaguchi has kindly agreed to come to the FCCJ and answer these questions. A native of Ibaraki, Yamaguchi graduated from University of Tokyo and was a lawyer before jumping into politics. Through the challenges of the last few years, he has earned a reputation for being a calm, steady hand at the wheel. Come along and hear what he has to say on these vital issues.