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Reviewed by:
  • Koizumi Diplomacy: Japan's Kantei Approach to Foreign and Defense Affairs
  • Eiji Kawabata (bio)
Koizumi Diplomacy: Japan's Kantei Approach to Foreign and Defense Affairs. By Tomohito Shinoda. University of Washington Press, Seattle, 2007. xvii, 198 pages. $18.95, paper.

Japan's postwar prime ministers were known to be weak figures in Japanese politics whose leadership was impaired by faction politics in their own party. However, Koizumi Jun'ichirō exercised strong leadership when he was prime minister from April 2001 to September 2006. His most conspicuous achievement was the privatization of Japan Post. Despite strong opposition from powerful old-guard politicians and bureaucrats, he eventually succeeded in passing the bills for privatization. Though not as striking as his success in domestic politics, Koizumi's strong leadership in Japan's foreign policymaking was also strong. In this book, Tomohito Shinoda analyzes Koizumi's active involvement in foreign policymaking.

In conventional Japanese foreign policymaking prior to Koizumi, some prime ministers exercised strong leadership in Japan's foreign policymaking process. Shinoda notes that prime ministers made major foreign policy decisions, such as the conclusion of the San Francisco Peace Treaty, the revision of the U.S.-Japan Security Treaty, and the normalization of Sino Japanese relations (p. 19). However, it was very difficult for each prime minister to exercise strong leadership because of his inability to control the bureaucracy and his own party, the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP). [End Page 213] As the head of the cabinet, the prime minister was formally in a position to control the bureaucracy, which was divided into ministries (and agencies). The minister at the head of each ministry was appointed by the prime minister and followed his lead as a member of his cabinet. However, the cabinet was reshuffled so frequently that each minister had to leave his or her position before establishing firm control over the ministry. The de facto leader of each ministry was the administrative vice minister, a senior career bureaucrat. Consequently, the prime minister did not have a clear chain of command over the bureaucracy (pp. 21–22).

Similar to the bureaucracy, the LDP prevented the prime minister from playing a leading role in policymaking. Since 1955, all prime ministers with the exception of Hata Tsutomu and Murayama Tomiichi were from the LDP. Each LDP prime minister was also the president of the LDP and was selected by LDP members, mainly LDP Diet members. Despite his leadership position, the prime minister did not have strong control over the LDP in policymaking. The LDP had a very fragmented decision-making structure. Based on their expertise and connections with bureaucrats who had jurisdiction over the policy area, so-called zoku (policy tribe) Diet members were in charge of day-to-day policymaking in the LDP. Many times, zoku Diet members opposed the prime minister's policy initiatives. Faction leaders within the LDP prevented prime ministers from taking tight control over the policymaking process. When the prime minister sought to pass legislative bills through the Diet for policy change, he had to obtain approval from various levels of committees within the party, especially its executive committee, without whose approval no bill was sent to the Diet (pp. 23–25). Shinoda shows that the Japanese prime minister was more like a consensus builder than a decisive, top-down leader.

In the 1980s, Prime Minister Nakasone Yasuhiro sought to strengthen his control over the policymaking process. He became deeply involved in the appointment of cabinet members and the selection of his staff in the Prime Minister's Office. To enhance his influence over foreign policymaking, he took initiative in developing closer relations with Japan's allies. Shinoda's descriptions show how Nakasone, while restoring strained relations with South Korea, fortified Japan's relations with the United States by actively supporting the administration of Ronald Reagan (pp. 25–32). Nakasone's successor, Takeshita Noboru, did not exercise strong leadership in foreign affairs, but the strengthening of the Cabinet Office that occurred during Nakasone's prime ministership had a lasting impact because Deputy Chief Cabinet Secretary Ozawa Ichirō played a leading role in solving a series of trade disputes with the United States in the late 1980s (pp...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1549-4721
Print ISSN
0095-6848
Pages
pp. 213-217
Launched on MUSE
2009-01-15
Open Access
No
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