U.S. watching polls and promises to work with winner

From the State Department to the White House, all eyes are on Japan’s December 16th Lower House of Representatives election, and the State Department is assuring everyone in Japan the United States will work closely with whichever party gains the reins of power.

The ruling Democratic Party of Japan, led by Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda, is trailing in the public opinion polls, while the opposition Liberal Democratic Party’s strength is growing. Former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is the current leader of the LDP.  If the LDP does emerge victorious, he would again become Prime Minister.  “We expect that we will work well with whomever the Japanese people choose to elect, and we will be following closely,” is how Victoria Nuland, a State Department spokeswoman, put it.  Noda dissolved the Lower House last Friday and ordered snap elections Dec. 16th.

Although the State Department’s public position is of neutrality, senior research fellow at the conservative Heritage Foundation Bruce Klingner suggests there’s a behind-the-scenes cheering and rooting section for the LDP and Abe, notably because of the expectations Japan would increase its security role and behave more like an economic superpower than it has been under the DPJ.  “Abe’s conservative foreign policy views and the Japanese public’s growing concern over China provide an excellent opportunity for Washington to achieve several policy objectives critical to the health of the U.S.-Japan alliance,” he says.

Klingner believes “it would be beneficial for the United States if Japan were to increase its defense spending, enable collective self-defense, adopt less restrictive rules of engagement for forces involved in overseas peacekeeping operations, and press forward on building a replacement U.S. Marine Corps air base in Okinawa.”