Thu, Feb 26, 2009 - Page 5 News List

Taro Aso’s critics not impressed by talks with Obama

AFP , TOKYO

The Japanese government yesterday hailed embattled Prime Minister Taro Aso’s meeting with US President Barack Obama, but the opposition slammed the talks as being devoid of content.

Aso on Tuesday became the first foreign leader to visit Obama in Washington, where both leaders pledged to cooperate in fighting the global economic crisis and in responding to a potential North Korean missile test.

‘FRANK DIALOGUE’

“Both the leaders were able to hold a frank dialogue and build a personal relationship,” Chief Cabinet Secretary Takeo Kawamura said.

“It was very significant to confirm that the world’s largest and second-largest economies should work together to tackle global issues under the alliance,” Kawamura told a news conference in Tokyo after the summit.

But the largest opposition group, the Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ), said that Aso, whose public support ratings have plummeted, no longer represented the country.

“We cannot expect effective negotiations by a prime minister who has lost the people’s trust,” DPJ President Ichiro Ozawa told reporters.

NOT ENOUGH

“I’m afraid the talks had nearly no content,” said Ozawa, who is leading in opinion polls ahead of elections later this year. “I don’t think America seriously discussed things with Aso.”

DPJ Secretary-General Yukio Hatoyama charged that “if [Aso] feels overjoyed to be the first to be invited to the presidential office, it just means that [Japan’s] diplomatic subservience to the United States will continue.”

Aso remains under intense pressure after a series of political problems including the resignation of his finance minister last week for appearing drunk at a major international meeting.

Aso, who must call elections by September, has seen his Cabinet’s approval ratings steadily decline from more than 40 percent when he took office five months ago to just 11 percent, a poll this week found.

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