Japan Opposition Takes on Economy After Landslide

The Associated Press

TOKYO – Japan’s likely next prime minister rushed to select Cabinet ministers Monday after his party trounced the ruling conservatives in elections and inherited a mountain of problems, including how to revive the world’s second-largest economy.

Yukio Hatoyama spoke only briefly with reporters before huddling with party leaders. In a victory speech late Sunday, he said he would focus on choosing Japan’s next finance minister. He has also said he wants to redefine Tokyo’s relationship with its key ally, Washington.

Japan managed to climb out of a yearlong recession in the second quarter, but its economy remains weak. Unemployment and anxiety over falling wages threaten to undermine any recovery. The jobless rate has risen to a record 5.7 percent. After a rapid succession of three administrations in three years, Japan is facing its worst crisis of confidence in decades.

Hatoyama has been vocal about distancing Japan from Washington and forging closer ties with its Asian neighbors. He has said he will end a refueling mission in the Indian Ocean in support of U.S.-led coalition forces in Afghanistan, and wants to review the role of the 50,000 U.S. troops stationed across Japan under a post-World War II mutual security treaty. He is not expected to make any radical departures that would harm relations with Washington, however, and the new U.S. ambassador to Japan said President Barack Obama is looking forward to working with the administration in Tokyo. “The challenges we face are many, but through our partnership our two great democracies will meet them in a spirit of cooperation and friendship,” Ambassador John V. Roos said in a statement Monday.

The party is just eleven years old, and only a handful have served in top government positions. But Ichiro Ozawa, co-founder of the party, expressed a quiet confidence. “We have no fear, and we will steadily achieve our campaign promises one by one,” he said.