ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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The 'Wandering Aircraft Carrier' Japan: Difficulties of Regime Shift

A blundering Japanese prime minister Yukio Hatoyama resigned last month as he was unable to live up to the promises made during the 2009 parliamentary elections - particularly the removal of the United States military base in Okinawa. Trial and error perhaps best describes the past nine months of the Democratic Party of Japan's performance in government, even as the country cries out for a newer political environment.

Japan was once described by the American cold war strategist George Kennan, as the “stationary aircraft carrier” posed off the Soviet “far east”. The strong US security presence in the Japanese archipelago after the second world war (WW) might have begun with the intention to ensure that Japan would never again b ecome a source of instability in the region. But it is this unique geostrategic p osition of Japan and furthermore the success of its post- second world war democracy and econo mic prosperity that drove the US to build a lasting and robust alliance with the Japanese government, which was led by the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) for half a century.

This US-Japan security cooperation prevailed in spite of the end of the cold war, and successfully repositioned i tself as the cornerstone of stability in the Asia-Pacific as well as a global partnership. In short, “aircraft carrier” Japan was not only “stationary”, it was, for the most part, an excellent partner too. This changed somehow on 30 August 2009. The geographic position of Japan obviously remained stationary but with the Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ) taking over the government, the first change of ruling party in 50-some years, Japan’s political, economic and strategic direction seems to have w andered off.

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