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Agreement Reached on Japanese Gov’t

January 13, 1999

TOKYO (AP) _ Japan’s ruling party and a major opposition group reached a basic agreement today on their last remaining point of contention in talks to form a coalition government.

The governing Liberal Democratic Party and the Liberal Party compromised on Japan’s international military role, clearing the final hurdle toward the launch of an alliance, said LDP spokesman Mitsuo Hatakeyama.

Japanese Prime Minister Keizo Obuchi returned from Europe today, hoping to be able to reshuffle his Cabinet and give portfolios to the Liberals to seal the coalition.

But negotiations were snagged until the last minute over how far to expand Tokyo’s military role in U.N. military operations.

Obuchi’s party and the opposition party wrangled for weeks over policy differences, stalling the pact to boost the ruling party’s weak grip in Parliament, which convenes next week.

The Liberal Party is pushing for a reinterpretation of Japan’s pacifist constitution to allow greater freedom for the military overseas, but the ruling party is opposed that.

The ruling party’s Hatakeyama refused to give details, but said a basic agreement had been reached. He said officials from the two parties were working on the last details toward a formal compromise.

The brokering has been closely watched by financial markets because a stronger base in Japan’s parliament would allow Obuchi’s party to push through measures to bolster Japan’s staggering economy.

Many market watchers also hope for a larger role for the Liberals, who back even stronger economic reforms than Obuchi’s forces.

The Liberal Party wants to allow Japan’s Self Defense Forces to be able to provide medical aid to combat areas during multinational military missions. It also wants a clearer definition of Japan’s responsibilities under updated U.S.-Japan security guidelines.

The ruling party fears the Liberal Party’s proposals would go against Japan’s constitution, which prohibits the country from participating in missions that use force as a means to settle international disputes.

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