Japan. The leadership problems of the ruling Liberal
Democratic Party (LDP; Jiyuminshuto) became acute when Prime
Minister Keizo Obuchi, 62, quickly fell ill in April and
died six weeks later. Yoshiro Mori took over both as prime
minister and as LDP chairman, and in the June 25 election,
the LDP defended its position as the largest single party in
Parliament's House of Commons, but lost its own absolute
majority. Coalition cooperation with the parties New Komeito
and the New Conservative Party (Hoshuto) continued, giving
the government 271 of the lower house's 480 seats.
Mori's fallacy for unfortunate statements, including
about Japan as "a divine nation with the emperor at its
center", however, contributed to falling voter support.
COUNTRYAAH, bribery and morale scandals that in July and October
forced two of the Prime Minister's staff, including Cabinet
chief Hidenao Nakagawa, to resign undermined the
government's position even more.
In November, Mori was openly challenged by reformist
Koichi Kato, leader of the LDP's second-largest party
faction, but in the unbelief vote that followed in the House
of Commons, Katos's revolt was ruthless. The disputed Mori's
days as head of government were believed to still be
Japan's economic recovery was slowly moving forward, and in
September the government presented another stimulus package
to boost domestic consumption. Unemployment fell slightly,
but remained above 4%.
In the budget for the coming year, the government
announced in December record funding for the defense,
already one of the most expensive in the world.
modernization of the Air Force.
The peace that the Russian Federation and Japan never made
after the Second World War continued to haunt the parties.
As before, it was the tug-of-war of the four islands of
southern Kuril ("Northern Territories" in Japan) that impeded a
peace treaty. Schism has also remained unresolved since
Russian President Vladimir Putin visited Tokyo in September
and spoke with Mori.
Shortly after Putin's visit, a spy business aroused
Russian-Japanese irritation. A Japanese naval officer was
arrested in Tokyo for handing secret documents to a Russian
diplomat. The officer admitted at the arrest, and the press
described the case as the worst espionage in the country in
20 years. In Moscow, however, the incident was blamed on
"forces" seeking to damage Russian-Japanese relations, and
the designated diplomat left Japan despite the Tokyo
When Chinese Prime Minister Zhu Rongji visited Japan in
October, he diminished criticism of the Japanese military
assaults during the war, in sharp contrast to Jiang Zemin's
frosty visit two years earlier.
Zhu emphasized that Japan must never forget his past, but
refrained from calling for formal Japanese prayer. Instead,
he thanked the multimillion-dollar aid that Japan has provided
to China in recent decades and welcomed more Japanese
The financial and economic crisis that hit Southeast Asia
in July 97 also reached Japan later. In April 98, the
Japanese yen reached its lowest level in 7 years against the
US dollar, and the Tokyo Stock Exchange lost 6% of its value
in 3 days. Economically, there was a prospect of a decline
in the country's gross domestic product. Hashimoto declared
that the country was facing the most difficult situation
since World War II. In early July, he resigned from the
prime minister post following a poor election result for
LDP. On July 30, former Foreign Minister Keizo Obuchi was
appointed new Prime Minister. He had not first obtained the
necessary number of votes in the Upper House, but then the
required number in the Lower House.
An accident at a nuclear reprocessing plant, just 3
kilometers north of the Tokoaimura nuclear power plant,
north of Tokyo, resulted in radioactivity 15,000 times above
normal in the plant. The environmental organization
Greenpeace characterized the accident as a symptom of the
serious nuclear safety concerns in Japan. Acc. Greenpeace
has 5 tonnes of uranium in Japan and another 30 tonnes
purchased but still in Europe.
Blooming right-wing groups welcomed the old imperial flag
in August. It had not been used for 50 years, but had now
been reintroduced. At the same time, dozens of teachers were
fired for refusing to use the old imperial symbols of the
country's militaristic past. The rising nationalism is also
reflected in the armed forces that have begun conducting
military exercises in the sea around Japan and whose
recruitment is the highest in decades.
Following a new accident at the Tokaimura nuclear plant
in September, Obuchi ordered an investigation into all the
installations in the country using nuclear fuel. The company
JCO that reprocesses the spent fuel admitted that for
several years it has used manuals that do not meet the
minimum safety requirements set by the government. Despite
the company's self-criticism, the governor of the province
of Ibaraki and the mayor of Tokaimura criticized the prime
minister for the way the authorities had handled the crisis.
Greenpeace criticized the fact that the failed factory
continued to leak radioactivity to an extent 5 times higher
than the values considered safe, and officials from both
the factory and the government were criticized for their
long-suffering in dealing with the situation. The newspaper
In April 2000, Prime Minister Obuchi went into a coma
after working hard to reactivate his country's economy. He
was immediately replaced by Yoshiro Mori. Obuchi died in
May, and a few days later the new prime minister declared at
a Shinto ceremony - the Buddhist direction that during World
War II had considered Emperor Hirohito a living god - that
Japan was "a divine nation that has the emperor as its
center". Comments that gave aftermath both nationally and
Mori implemented a government transformation and
administrative cuts. It happened after the press, opposition
and parts of his own party had called on him to step down.
Acc. many observers he is the weakest Prime Minister Japan
to date. To strengthen his weak base, he appointed former
Prime Minister Kiichi Miyazawa and Ryutaro Hashimoto as key
government officials. In February 2001, the press again
demanded his departure. This happened when, after being
informed that a Japanese fishing boat had collided with a
North American nuclear submarine, his game of golf
continued. The press accused him of "lack of compassion".