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U.S.-Japan Parliamentary Exchange Program

24th Japanese Diet Delegation to the United States
January 11-15, 2004

Program Report

Seven Diet members, representing Japan's three major ruling and opposition parties, visited Washington, D.C., and New York City on January 11-15, 2004, for a series of high-level dialogues with senior administration officials, Congressional leaders, and policy experts on international security, economic policy, domestic politics, and U.S.-Japan relations. The program was organized as part of JCIE's U.S.-Japan Parliamentary Program and included meetings with Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld and senior foreign policy experts such as Dr. Henry Kissinger and Strobe Talbott as well as two widely attended public seminars in Washington and New York.

A nongovernmental and nonpartisan exchange, the U.S.-Japan Parliamentary Exchange Program was launched in 1968 and stands as the longest-running exchange of its kind. In its 36-year history, it has brought more than 270 members of the U.S. Congress and Japanese Diet to their counterparts' country, many on multiple occasions, and the visit of the 24th Diet Delegation to the United States continues a long tradition of convening key leaders to discuss emerging international issues in a private, frank, and productive manner. JCIE's longstanding efforts to include rising, young leaders in the program has allowed it to nurture an understanding of the U.S.-Japan alliance relationship and its role in the international system among a wide range of parliamentarians who contribute to policymaking at the very highest levels; program alumni include two former Japanese prime ministers, two U.S. vice presidents, and numerous cabinet ministers, party heads, and legislative leaders.

The visit of the 24th Delegation proved to be especially timely, coming one week before Japan was to send its Self Defense Forces to Iraq to aid the reconstruction effort, the first dispatch of Japanese troops into a conflict area since World War II. This groundbreaking dispatch marks a dramatic evolution of the constitutional limits on military action, and has been highly controversial in Japan, with vital implications for the future of the U.S.-Japan alliance. Also, the timing of the visit a few days before the opening of the 2004 Diet session allowed the delegation members to forewarn policymakers and leaders in the U.S.-Japan community about the heated political competition that will very soon emerge in the run-up to the summer Upper House elections, which are beginning to be seen as a potential turning point for the Koizumi administration.

Meetings with Congressional leaders and senior administration officials such as Secretary Rumsfeld and Assistant Secretary of State Jim Kelly allowed the delegation members to discuss the evolution of the U.S.-Japan alliance and relay their sense that more attention needs to be paid to underlying tensions in the relationship. Representatives of both the ruling coalition and the opposition shared their concerns about the difficulty they face in explaining Japan's military involvement in Iraq to their constituents, revealing that they are encountering widespread sentiment that their country has been dragged into Iraq by its alliance obligations. Several asserted that the Koizumi administration has not made a convincing case supporting involvement in Iraq in its own right, and admitted that, in the current environment, they, too, often find themselves justifying the dispatch of troops as a necessary trade-off to ensure the U.S. security commitment in dealing with North Korea. Worries about a backlash among the Japanese public underlie their doubts about the widespread characterization of the U.S.-Japan relationship as the strongest it has ever been, leading them to explain that, from their eyes, it appears much more fragile than many American leaders realize.

The North Korean nuclear crisis also was a central issue of discussion, as American leaders reassured the delegation members that the United States is fully committed to a diplomatic resolution. Diet members from both the ruling coalition and the opposition explained that the domestic political debate in Japan is marked by a sense that greater priority should be placed on the issue of abducted Japanese citizens in multilateral negotiations with Pyongyang. Meanwhile, U.S. leaders emphasized the complexities of dealing with North Korea, and expressed their hopes for the full and positive engagement of Japan in resolving the crisis.

The visit also provided an opportunity for an exchange of views on domestic political dynamics in both countries. The delegation members were briefed on U.S. developments in several of their meetings with Congressional members, leaders of major policy research institutions, and key legislative staff, and a great deal of concern was expressed about the impact of the polarization of domestic politics on U.S. foreign policy. Similar worries about the rise of a more populist style of policymaking in Japan were brought up in a number of discussions.

The delegation members shared their thoughts at two widely attended public seminars, one in Washington, D.C. that was hosted by the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) and attracted an audience of more than 70, and a second in New York hosted by the Japanese Chamber of Commerce and Industry of New York (JCCI) that drew approximately 90 people. In addition to discussing the state of U.S.-Japan relations, several of them used these occasions to explain to American and Japanese opinion leaders that support for the revision of the Japanese constitution is growing rapidly, and that revision should be a much more positive step than is often perceived.

While the immediate benefits of their discussions were clear to the delegation members and their American counterparts, given the rapidly evolving international environment, three aspects of the program hinted at the cumulative impact of years of regularized exchanges between political leaders. The longevity and continuity of the program was highlighted in a sentimental fashion by the participation of Representative Shu Watanabe, whose father, the late Representative Ro Watanabe, had been a key member of the 3rd Diet Delegation almost three decades earlier. Meanwhile, the strength of the network of personal ties that has been nurtured by the program was in evidence as a number of former participants from the U.S. side met with this year's delegation members. (Likewise, visit activities were joined by more than 20 alumni of JCIE's U.S. Congressional Staff Exchange Program and the U.S.-Japan Young Political Leaders Exchange Program, which is operated in cooperation with the American Council for Young Political Leaders.) Lastly, the long-term value of political exchange as a pillar of the U.S.-Japan relationship was illustrated persuasively by Secretary Rumsfeld, who related how his experiences on JCIE's initial parliamentary exchange as a third-term congressman imparted him with a deeper understanding and respect for his Japanese counterparts that he has drawn upon in his dealings with Japan ever since.

Participants

Delegation Leader

Kenji KosakaHouse of Representatives, Liberal Democratic Party (LDP)
Ranking Member, Committee on Rules and Administration
Nagano 1st District, 5th term

Delegation

Tatsuya ItoHouse of Representatives, Liberal Democratic Party (LDP)
Senior Vice-Minister for Financial Services; Senior Vice-Minister for Economic and Fiscal Policy
Tokyo Proportional Representation District, 4th term
Hakubun ShimomuraHouse of Representatives, Liberal Democratic Party (LDP)
Executive Member, Committee on Rules and Administration
Tokyo 11th District, 3rd term
Kiyohiko ToyamaHouse of Councillors, New Komeito
Executive Member, Special Committee on Okinawa and Northern Problems; Executive Member, Committee on Health, Welfare, and Labor; Member, Committee on Audit
Proportional District, 1st term
Kazuhiro HaraguchiHouse of Representatives, Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ)
Executive Member, Committee on Budget; Member, Special Committee on Prevention of International Terrorism and Japan's Cooperation and Support; Humanitarian Assistance for Reconstruction in Iraq
Saga 1st District, 3rd term
Koji MatsuiHouse of Councillors, Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ)
Executive Member, Committee on Audit; Member, Committee on Cabinet; Member, Research Commission on the Constitution
Kyoto Prefecture, 1st term
Shu WatanabeHouse of Representatives, Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ)
Ranking Member, Committee on Security; Executive Member, Special Committee on Responses to Armed Attacks
Shizuoka 6th District, 3rd term