Opposition parties are calling on Japan’s parliament to remove a senior Upper House lawmaker from the ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) after her visit to China in April resulted in the cancellation of a committee session. As the chairwoman of the Upper House Environment Committee, Yoriko Kawaguchi is expected to be dismissed from the position this week in what would be the first such action to ever be taken by the opposition-controlled Upper House.
Kawaguchi, a former foreign minister, was on a scheduled trip to China on April 23 and 24 of this year in order to attend an international conference. The lawmaker had parliament’s approval for these two days, but without permission or prior notice she extended the trip by one day in order to meet a senior Chinese official. In addition to taking place during escalated tensions between the two countries over an ongoing territorial dispute in the East China Sea, Kawaguchi’s trip extension forced the environment committee to cancel a session meeting on April 25.
On the trip, Kawaguchi met with Chinese foreign policy official State Councilor Yang Jiechi. While she apologized for causing trouble, she also explained her actions to Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, who is also the head of the LDP, and said she felt it was in Japan’s interests to meet with Yang. LDP Secretary General Shigeru Ishiba and Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga have both defended Kawaguchi’s actions, adding that she was trying to address the tensions with China. However, seeing as how the LDP currently has control of the Lower House, and with the fear that they will gain control of the Upper House in this summer’s elections, this commotion over Kawaguchi’s violation of parliament rules could be little more than grasping at straws by opposition parties.