[FOUNTAIN]Clashes in the cabinetThe chief cabinet secretary of Japan has two faces. One is to coordinate the operations of different ministries and government agencies. He takes care of cabinet meetings twice a week. The chief cabinet secretary also is the senior minister, who handles most of the important issues in the cabinet. In that capacity, he is the first one to act as prime minister in case of an emergency.
The chief cabinet secretary has to play the role of the mouth of the cabinet. Official government announcements are made by him. The faceless “chief government official” often mentioned in newspapers refers to him. The “government source” refers to his deputy. He is called “the wife of the prime minister” as well and is generally nominated from the same faction as the prime minister.
His relationship with the prime minister is always the talk of the town in Japan. Nakasone’s Masaharu Gotoda earned the nickname “Razor” for his straightforward advice. Obuchi’s Hiromu Nonaka was known as the “shadow prime minister” for his mighty influence in the Obuchi cabinet.
The election for the next prime minister of Japan in September will virtually be a competition between a former chief cabinet secretary and the incumbent one. Former secretary Yasuo Fukuda is gearing up to run against Secretary Shinzo Abe.
Mr. Fukuda has spent 1,289 days in office under Prime Ministers Yoshiro Mori and Junichiro Koizumi successively, a record as the longest serving chief cabinet secretary in history.
After Mr. Fukuda joined the race, Asian diplomacy became the hottest pre-election issue. He has proclaimed the “Neo-Fukuda doctrine.” The original Fukuda doctrine is the three principles of Japan’s foreign policy in Asia announced by his father, Prime Minister Takeo Fukuda in 1977. Fukuda senior pledged Japan would not become a military power, would build an open-hearted relationship with other countries and would treat neighbors as equal partners. Fukuda juniorhopes to transcend his father’s vision and create an Asian community.
Diplomacy is also a specialty of Mr. Shinzo Abe. He started his political career as a secretary to his father, Shintaro “Diplomat” Abe, who served as the secretary of foreign affairs for four consecutive terms in the 1980s. In an interview with the JoongAng Ilbo, Mr. Abe said he has no intention to declare visits to the Yasukuni Shrine.
“A country flourishes by one man and perishes by one man.” That is the title of the book published by Mr. Fukuda last year.
We will see.
by Oh Young-hwan
The writer is a deputy political news editor at the JoongAng Ilbo.