Political instability in Japan will have no immediate effect on U.S.-Japanese relations, a KU professor says.
The resignation of Japan's prime minister represents political instability that may be prevalent until new elections are held, Kansas University professors and Japanese students said.
"Americans should always care about Japan, both economically and strategically," said Ray Christensen, assistant professor of political science. "Is this a significant change? I don't think it is."
"What it means, of course, is the system is not as stable as we would like," said George Woodyard, dean of international studies and programs. "I think the really critical point is who they will nominate to replace him."
Japanese news reports said Foreign Minister Tsutomu Hata was a possible replacement for Prime Minister Morihiro Hosokawa, who announced his intention to resign amidst a scandal over his personal finances.
Hosokawa could be gone as early as today. He would be the fourth of Japan's last five prime ministers to step down because of scandal.
Christensen, who worked within the Japanese political system as an intern, said the resignation comes while various political parties maneuver for alliances in upcoming elections.
"There's intense jockeying for who is going to ally with who for this election that will probably happen in late summer or early fall," he said.
He said evidence of the scandal has been known for about a year.
"Why are they bringing this up now, I don't know," he said. "I would suspect it has to do with opposition in his own party."
Ikuko Tokuhaga, a graduate student in business from Kagoshima, said the resignation surprised her.
"I didn't expect it to happen like this," she said. "This government is not going to last too long. It's going to take a few more elections until the political climate settles down."
Another Japanese graduate student, Risa Ueda, said she was concerned about the image Japanese politics could be sending.
"If something like this keeps happening, it really influences foreign students, because we cannot trust our own politics" said Ueda, a graduate student in Anthropology from Tokyo. "They (host country) might have a different view of Japanese people."
Christensen said the resignation would have little, if any, effect on U.S.-Japanese trade or political relations.