August 11, 2009 / 8:52 AM / 10 years ago

Japan opposition: no big military spending hike

TOKYO (Reuters) - Japan’s opposition Democratic Party has no plans for a big boost in military spending and wants to forge good ties with Asian neighbours if, as polls suggest, it wins this month’s general election, its leader said on Tuesday.

Japan's Prime Minister Taro Aso attends a news conference to announce the ruling Democratic Party manifesto at the party headquarters in Tokyo July 31, 2009. REUTERS/Yuriko Nakao/Files

Surveys show the Democrats have a good chance of ousting Prime Minister Taro Aso’s Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) in the Aug. 30 election, which would end more than half a century of almost unbroken rule by the business-friendly party.

“As a party, we have no plan to adopt a stance of greatly increasing military spending,” Democratic Party leader Yukio Hatoyama told a briefing for foreign media.

His party would aim to strengthen relations with China, bedevilled in the past by friction over Japan’s military actions in Asia before and during World War Two.

“We have been urging the LDP-led administration until now to face the history issue with courage,” Hatoyama said. “So Japan-China relations will move forward (if the Democrats win).”

Japan and China still mistrust each other over military issues, though Japan’s defence spending has slid for seven years. The Democrats’ No. 2 leader, Katsuya Okada, called on Monday for more transparency in rising Chinese military spending.

Hatoyama backed closer ties with other Asian countries, saying he wanted to see an East Asian community modelled on the European Union. He also said he would stay away from the Yasukuni shrine for war dead in Tokyo, shunned by some in the region.

“If I were to take up (the leadership), I have no intention of going and I would ask cabinet ministers to refrain from going too,” he said.

The shrine honours millions of Japanese war dead, including some convicted as criminals by a post-World War Two tribunal. Visits by past leaders have irked China and South Korea, which see it as a symbol of Japan’s past militarism.

In a sign the wartime wounds still smart, about 50 people from Taiwan forced their way into Yasukuni’s inner sanctum on Tuesday to denounce the fact that their relatives are enshrined there.

The names of about 27,800 men from Taiwan killed while serving with Japan’s Imperial forces are recorded and some relatives want the names removed.

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