Expecting leadership from Noda

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Expecting leadership from Noda

Japanese Minister of Finance Yoshihiko Noda has been elected to head the ruling Democratic Party of Japan, which made him prime minister.

The conservative and politically unknown Noda was voted in with the hope that he could restore government leadership amid the country’s worst post-war crises in the aftermath of a disastrous earthquake and tsunami, a worsening economy, and widening debt.

We hope the new prime minister - the sixth in five years - will finally take a firm grip over governance and set the world’s third-biggest economy back in the right direction.

It is hard to keep the names of Japanese prime ministers straight because they change so frequently. Despite the landmark power transfer from a conservative to a liberal government, the old fractional, political and rigid bureaucratic practices remain. The revolving-door leadership no longer interests the public.

Noda received a 4 percent approval rating in a poll asking about his eligibility for the prime minister position. If he does not build public confidence and consolidate power, he will not do any better than his predecessors.

Japan’s leadership crisis bodes badly for the world. Noda must exercise wisdom and resolution in reining in the country’s oversized debt and precipitating reconstruction and restoration of the tsunami- and earthquake-hit areas.

Our concern is his stance on foreign policy. As a finance minister, he irked neighboring countries by reiterating that convicted World War II criminals have already paid their debt and should no longer be seen as war criminals. He was defending the practice of paying tribute to them at the Yasukuni shrine, where the souls of war dead are enshrined.

But such an attitude is dangerous and irresponsible. It is in complete disregard of the enormous pain that his country caused throughout Asia. He is also hawkish on a territorial dispute with Korea over the Dokdo islets and opposes the idea of bestowing voting rights on ethnic Koreans in Japan. As prime minister, we hope he alters his positions given the responsibility of his new role.

The relatively young Noda, who has no large power base within his party, joked during the leadership campaign this month that he was a loach among big-fish candidates. But he vowed that he will employ his humble origin to serve the people.

We hope he displays the same earnestness on the foreign front as well.

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