Parties in Japan Reach Compromise
By Joji Sakurai
TOKYO (AP) -- Japan's ruling party and an opposition group agreed Wednesday to launch a coalition government after reaching a last-minute breakthrough in a dispute over security issues.
The pact will help the ruling Liberal Democratic Party, which lacks a majority in the upper chamber of Parliament, pass bills to revive Japan's economy and upgrade defense ties with the United States.
Coalition talks had been stalled for weeks over the Liberal Party's demand to expand Japan's international military role, which the Liberal Democratic Party insisted was unconstitutional. The two parties reached a compromise that would allow Japan to participate in U.N. peacekeeping operations.
Prime Minister Keizo Obuchi, who returned Wednesday from a tour of Europe, was expected to reshuffle his Cabinet on Thursday and give a post to his party's new ally.
``No more issues remain to be resolved as a pre-condition to forming a coalition,'' Liberal Party Secretary General Takeshi Noda said. Local media reported that party leaders had unofficially decided to make Noda the minister for home affairs.
The number of ministers in Obuchi's new Cabinet will be cut to 18 from the current 20 in line with earlier concessions the ruling party made on streamlining the government. The two parties have also agreed to reduce the number of civil servants.
The power brokering has been closely watched by financial markets in Tokyo because a coalition in Parliament would allow the Liberal Democratic Party to push through measures to bolster Japan's staggering economy.
Many market watchers also hope for a larger role for the Liberal Party, which backs stronger economic reforms.
The two sides agreed Wednesday to allow Japan's Self Defense Forces to ``actively participate and cooperate'' in United Nations peacekeeping missions if asked to do so by the United Nations.
The Liberal Party had wanted to allow Japan's Self Defense Forces to be able to provide medical aid to combat areas during multinational military missions. But the Liberal Party backed down from the demand.
The ruling party had feared the Liberal Party's proposal would contravene Japan's constitution, which prohibits the country from participating in missions that use force to settle international disputes.
© Copyright 1999 Associated Press