Washington: President Barack Obama called on Japan to maintain a strong alliance with the United States, while Asia-Pacific leaders sought closer ties out of the historic shift in power after Japan’s general election.
Yukio Hatoyama’s centre-left Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ) won a landslide victory in Sunday’s election, ending five decades of almost permanent rule by the conservative Liberal Democratic Party. Hatoyama has unnerved some, however, by calling for a more independent Japan.
Just after polls closed, White House spokesman Robert Gibbs said Obama “looks forward to working closely with the new Japanese Prime Minister”.
“We are confident that the strong US-Japan alliance and the close partnership between our two countries will continue to flourish under the leadership of the next government in Tokyo,” Gibbs said in a statement.
The US State Department said it hoped for early talks with Japan on issues ranging from North Korea’s nuclear drive to the fight against global warming.
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton believes “the US-Japan alliance is strong and remains a cornerstone of peace and security in East Asia,” State Department spokesman Ian Kelly said.
Hatoyama, while saying the US alliance would remain “the cornerstone” for Japan, has pledged to devote more attention to Asia.
In an essay on The New York Times website, Hatoyama said that “as a result of the failure of the Iraq war and the financial crisis, the era of US-led globalism is coming to an end and that we are moving toward an era of multi-polarity.”
North Korea was among the first to react to Hatoyama’s win, but there was no hint of reconciliation. It called on Japan to break with its “crooked” past and apologise for coercing Asian women to serve in its World War II brothels.
Japan has a “historic, legal and moral” obligation to frankly acknowledge and pay compensation for wartime sex slavery, the ruling communist party newspaper Rodong Sinmun said in a commentary.
South Korea expressed hope that the election would bring a new improvement in relations with Japan.
President Lee Myung-Bak congratulated Hatoyama. “I am confident Japan will not only continue to develop under your and the DPJ’s leadership, but will also greatly boost its contribution to the peace and joint development of the international community,” the President said.
“I look forward to working closely with you on developing the Korea-Japan relationship into a solid, mature partnership.”
Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd said he looked forward to “expanding on our relationship” under the new government.
“It is a most significant development in Japanese domestic politics,” Rudd said, adding that he would discuss new areas of cooperation when he telephones Hatoyama on Monday.
Other politicians and world media hailed a political revolution in Japan.
“After the election of Barack Obama in the United States” this election “marks a new historic victory for socialists, social democrats and progressives in the world,” said Martine Aubry, leader of the French Socialist Party.
In Germany, the left-leaning Sueddeutsche Zeitung daily commented: “The LDP lost power after decades, because their politicians are arrogant and overbearing.”
Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung daily said: “The word revolution does not really seem suited to Japan. But on first sight, what happened on Sunday was definitely revolutionary.
“The people are just hoping that everything will get better (again). There will probably be disappointments. But the people are unlikely to start wanting a return to the LDP.”
In Russia, the Kommersant daily highlighted how Hatoyama, the grandson of a prime minister of the 1950s who helped revive relations with Russia, also has good ties with Moscow.
Hatoyama heads the Japan-Russia society, has met top Russian officials and his son teaches at Moscow State University, it said.