PHNOM PENH--Japan's ruling party will only officially endorse candidates in the Dec. 16 Lower House election who pledge to support Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda's initiative to join talks on a Trans-Pacific Partnership free trade deal.
Noda has made it clear that Japan's participation in the TPP framework is a central policy plank in the party's efforts to win the election, and signaled here that candidates must toe the party line on this divisive issue.
Noda cited his policy speech before the Diet and pledges during the party's leadership election in September as the baseline for winning official endorsement.
"Following them is the standard I have set," the prime minister told reporters in Phnom Penh on Nov. 19.
In his policy speech and on other occasions, Noda vowed to bring Japan into the TPP framework, led by the United States, and sign a free trade agreement with China and South Korea.
"It is not appropriate that candidates running under the DPJ banner deviate greatly from my policies," Noda said.
There is staunch opposition within the DPJ to Japan's participation in the TPP, which has led to defections from the party.
"It would be disappointing if there are more defections, but I am determined to fight this election with those who follow the party line," Noda said.
And in veiled criticism of the opposition Liberal Democratic Party and Japan Restoration Party, Noda cited his decision to pursue an energy policy that sharply reduces Japan's reliance on nuclear power.
"The focal point is energy," he said, adding that Japan faces the choice of breaking with nuclear power, continuing to rely on nuclear power or choosing "directionless politics" based on the anti- and pro-nuclear camps.
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