Afghan President Hamid Karzai plans to discuss potential arms deals with Indian officials during a trip to New Delhi this week, officials said, at a time when tensions are running high on Afghanistan's disputed border with Pakistan. Full Article
Afghanistan's Karzai seeks Indian military aid amid tensions with Pakistan. Full Article
NEWSMAKER - Japan opposition's Okada has clean, earnest image
TOKYO (Reuters) - To his supporters, Katsuya Okada of Japan's opposition Democratic Party is a man of principle with a "Mr Clean" image. Critics call him a bit of a stick-in-the mud.
If opinion polls that show the Democrats on track to win an Aug. 30 election hold true, Okada will likely be an important figure in the new government. Some have tipped him for the post of finance minister.
"When people say I am a 'principled person', I don't know if that is praise or criticism," the 55-year-old Okada said in May ahead of an unsuccessful bid to head the opposition Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ) after the previous leader resigned.
"It is important to be flexible ... but there are some things on which a politician cannot compromise."
Okada lost the DPJ leadership race to rival Yukio Hatoyama, who now has a good shot at becoming Japan's next prime minister in the election for parliament's lower house.
Hatoyama quickly tapped Okada for the key post of party secretary-general and the former trade bureaucrat now has the job of maintaining good ties with party allies and explaining policies to voters and business groups.
Okada served as party leader in 2004, taking over just before an upper house poll, when the square-jawed father of three parlayed his image as an earnest policy maven into a robust showing for the party.
A year later, however, he stepped down after popular leader Junichiro Koizumi led the long-ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) to a massive electoral victory with fiery pledges of reform. Considered a policy geek, Okada has recently focused on measures needed to fight global warming as a signature issue and pushed for a ban on corporate political donations.
SOCIAL JUSTICE, FROGS
Okada has acknowledged in the past the need to eventually raise Japan's 5 percent sales tax to help fund the bulging social security costs of an ageing society.
The Democrats, however, have pledged not to hike the politically sensitive tax for four years while they focus instead on cutting wasteful public spending to fund their projects.
In a recent interview with Reuters, Okada said Japan must come to grips with its wartime history, bitter memories of which often fray ties with neighbours China and South Korea.
"First, Japan itself must properly assess the fact that it embarked on that wretched, foolish war," he said.
"In that sense, our position is quite different from that of successive LDP governments, including Koizumi's."
Sino-Japanese relations chilled markedly during Koizumi's 2001-2006 tenure, when he visited Tokyo's Yasukuni Shrine, seen in Beijing and Seoul as a symbol of Japan's past militarism.
Okada has also said it was important to promote respect for diversity and once told Reuters his favourite movie was "Philadelphia", starring Tom Hanks as a lawyer dying from AIDS and fighting for justice from the company that fired him.
"The main difference with the LDP in terms of the kind of society we are aiming at is one based on respect for diversity in society," he said in an interview in January.
He also collects frog knicknacks, perhaps because the Japanese word for 'frog' sounds the same as 'change' -- which is what he thinks is needed in a political sphere dominated by the conservative LDP for most of the past 50 years.
The son of a supermarket magnate, Okada was first elected to parliament's lower house in 1990 from the LDP and was one of dozens of lawmakers who bolted the party in 1993.
The defections triggered a chain of events that led to the LDP's brief replacement with a pro-reform coalition, its only time out of power in its half-decade history.
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