(For more on Japan's election, click [ID:nPOLJP])
* Japan ties with security ally Washington in spotlight
* Democrats want ministries to cooperate in transition
* New government will not meddle with central bank-lawmaker
(Adds Hatoyama's comments on sales tax)
By Chisa Fujioka and Tetsushi Kajimoto
TOKYO, Sept 2 Japan's incoming government sought
to reassure security ally Washington on Wednesday that no
upheaval was in store for U.S.-Japan relations, as the country
groped towards a rare handover of power.
The Democratic Party is preparing to take over after
trouncing the long-ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) in an
election on Sunday. Parliament is due to vote in Democratic Party
leader Yukio Hatoyama as prime minister in two weeks.
Managing ties with the United States is high on the agenda
after the party said it wanted to chart a course more independent
But Hatoyama is not expected to damage an alliance long at
the core of Japan's diplomacy and a senior Democratic Party
lawmaker sought on Wednesday to allay any simmering concerns,
including among investors, over the relationship. [ID:nT323721]
"We have repeatedly said Japan-U.S. relations are most
important as a basic principle in diplomacy and stressed the
importance of continuity in diplomacy," Kohei Otsuka said in an
interview with Reuters. [ID:nT20701]
The Democrats have said they want to reexamine an agreement
governing U.S. military forces in Japan and a deal under which
about 8,000 Marines will leave for the U.S. territory of Guam and
a Marine Corps air base shifted to a less-populated part of the
southern island of Okinawa. [ID:nN31454415]
New U.S. ambassador to Japan John Roos said in an interview
with U.S. National Public Radio the deals were not negotiable.
"Just to make it abundantly clear, both the United States and
Japan, at the government-to-government level, have made it
absolutely clear that these agreements have been signed, agreed
to, and are going forward," Roos said.
The Democrats have said they want the air base moved off
Okinawa, where many residents feel they shoulder an unfair share
of the burden for the U.S.-Japan security alliance.
Hatoyama will head to the United States soon after forming
his cabinet to make his diplomatic debut at a U.N. General
Assembly meeting and a G20 summit in Pittsburgh. Japanese media
said he would also hold talks with U.S. President Barack Obama.
The U.S.-educated Hatoyama raised eyebrows in Washington with
a recent essay in which he attacked the "unrestrained market
fundamentalism" of U.S.-led globalisation. He sought to play down
those comments on Monday, saying he was not anti-American.
TRANSITION IN PROGRESS
Other party executives pushed ahead with process of handing
over power in Japan.
Democrat Secretary-General Katsuya Okada met the top aide to
outgoing Prime Minister Taro Aso and requested that government
ministries help ensure a smooth transition. It is only the second
time the LDP has lost power since its founding in 1955.
"For the sake of the country, I think we should cooperate
fully with the new administration," the aide, Chief Cabinet
Secretary Takeo Kawamura, told reporters before the meeting.
The Democrats made curbing the clout of bureaucrats who have
long controlled policy-making a key election promise, but also
need their cooperation to implement programmes such as putting
more money in the hands of households. [ID:nT67167]
Reviving the economy is a key challenge, with unemployment at
a record high and investors worried whether the new government
will raise spending and further increase Japan's soaring public
debt, already at 170 percent of GDP. [ID:nT323721]
Otsuka said the next government would not meddle in the Bank
of Japan's policy and market operations, shrugging off
speculation it might pressure the central bank to print money to
buy government debt. [ID:nT20701]
"The incoming government and the central bank got off to a
smooth start," Otsuka said, a day after Bank of Japan Governor
Masaaki Shirakawa met with Hatoyama.
Hatoyama suggested it might be necessary eventually to raise
the 5 percent sales tax in the future to fund growing social
security costs as more Japanese become pensioners.
Japan is ageing more rapidly than any other rich country.
Over a quarter of Japanese will be 65 or older by 2015.
For a graphic tracking Japanese demographics, click:
The Democratic Party has pledged not to raise the sales tax
for at least four years, prompting questions about where it will
get the money for its spending plans. The Democrats say they can
fund the programmes by cutting waste and redirecting spending.
The Democrats also need to firm up a proposed coalition with
two tiny partners on the left and the right, whose cooperation is
needed to keep control of parliament's less powerful upper house.
The three agreed some policies before the election, but have
shied away from talks on security matters, where large gaps loom.
(Additional reporting by Colin Parrott, Yoko Nishikawa and Yoko
Kubota; Writing by Linda Sieg and Isabel Reynolds, Editing by
Dean Yates and Hugh Lawson)