Murayama backed on reversal of pacifist policies

September 04, 1994|By Los Angeles Times

TOKYO -- Prime Minister Tomiichi Murayama won approval yesterday for a historic reversal of his Socialist Party's pacifist policies, but the victory dealt a severe blow to party unity.

A special party convention backed Mr. Murayama's declarations supporting the U.S.-Japan Security Treaty, recognizing Japan's armed forces as constitutional, accepting nuclear power generation, and acknowledging the national anthem and national flag.

These declarations, which Mr. Murayama made in July after forming a coalition with the Liberal Democrats and the splinter New Party Harbinger, reversed positions that had been the Socialists' bedrock for four decades.

The about-face eliminates all major policy gaps with the Liberal Democrats, who during their 1955-93 rule had been archenemies of the Socialists.

Approval of the new policies came only after 40 percent of the party's delegates tried to block them with an amendment to retain the anti-military policies.

The amendment was rejected 222-152.

Two Parliament members resigned during the daylong convention, where widespread dissent pointed toward the possibility of a future party breakup.

Party divisions could dampen Socialist prospects in an upper-house election in July and a lower-house election that must be held by 1997. Last year, the Socialists lost half their seats in a lower-house election.

Mr. Murayama received a taste of grass-roots opposition when, on arrival at the convention, he was confronted by about 200 peace and environmental activists, beating drums and carrying placards saying, "Don't sell out the party."

"Those who can't fully understand the Socialist Party's new policy developments say the party has lost its reason to exist -- jTC but that will never happen," Mr. Murayama told delegates yesterday.

"The era of ideological confrontation is over. The time for debating specific policies has arrived."

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