independent

Saturday 19 April 2014

Japan's new ruler warns China over island claims

Nationalist parties have seized power in Japan – and the man expected to become prime minister immediately fired a warning to China over the disputed ownership of islands that have caused months of diplomatic tension.

Shinzo Abe (pictured), who led the Liberal Democratic Party to victory in a general election, said there was no doubt about his country's ownership of the islands, known as the Senkakus in Japan, but the Diaoyus in China.

"China is challenging the fact that (the islands) are Japan's inherent territory," said Mr Abe. "Our objective is to stop the challenge. We don't intend to worsen relations between Japan and China."

Despite the Liberal Democrats' name, Mr Abe's party is inherently conservative and struck a nationalistic tone throughout the election. Exit polls yesterday said Mr Abe's party would win as many as 310 seats in the 480-seat lower house of the Diet, a jump of almost 200 seats.

Yoshihiko Noda, the prime minister, conceded defeat last night after his Democratic Party of Japan was humbled. He resigned as leader, calling the results "extremely severe".

The party was expected to scrape together 77 seats at most, compared with 230 previously, and the defeat ends a three-year spell that interrupted the LDP's grasp on power.

The LDP's ally, the Buddhist-backed New Komeito Party, was expected to contribute another 35 seats to the total, which would give Mr Abe a "super-majority" and the power to overrule parliament's upper house.

Even more indicative of the rise of the right was the estimated 61 seats that the Japan Restoration Party is expected to claim when the final results are in. Only founded in November, the party is led by the unrepentant nationalist Shintaro Ishihara, the former governor of Tokyo, who has said he intends to restore the nation's dented pride.

Mr Ishihara provoked the tensions between Japan and China over the islands in April when he announced he would buy them from their private owners and administer them as part of Tokyo.

Jun Okumura, a political analyst with the Eurasia Group, described the achievement of Mr Ishihara's party as "pretty impressive" and said that the vote marked a "fairly significant shift to the right".

Brake

However, he said the New Komeito Party would "put a brake on some of Mr Abe's more extreme ambitions".

Campaigning in the run-up to the vote, Mr Abe underlined the need to stand up to China.

He also announced before polling day that he would travel to Washington in January to meet US President Barack Obama, with the issue of stemming China's rising influence top of the agenda.

Ahead of the results, China's state Xinhua news agency urged Japan to seek a post-election foreign policy that would "repair strained ties with neighbours". (© Daily Telegraph, London)

Irish Independent

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