Summiting in Hanoi

So President Bush and Prime Minister Abe have had their first meeting, in the wake of the APEC summit in Hanoi.

As the recap provided by the White House indicates, the agenda of their conversation was not particularly surprising and the meeting provided no major changes in US-Japan alliance policy. (Although, as this Yomiuri summary indicates, the two leaders spoke of a Free Trade Area of the Asia Pacific, which, if it could be achieved, would be a significant development.)

What is interesting in the recap is that it is Prime Minister Abe who spoke of the importance of the alliance’s fundamental values of “freedom, democracy, basic human rights and the rule of law.” This is the continuation of a trend, noted by Michael Green, that began under Koizumi; Japan has begun to speak more of the alliance’s values and of Japan’s commitment to spread freedom and democracy as a way to contrast itself with China, which may be an important market but is still governed by a one-party dictatorship and has yet to become a responsible stakeholder in Asia and the world. Also interesting in Mr. Abe’s remarks is that he suggested that the “globalization” of the alliance, which intensified under Mr. Koizumi, will continue.

There is no indication, however, as to whether the strong personal rapport that characterized the Bush-Koizumi relationship will also characterize the Bush-Abe relationship. We may have to wait until this week’s issue of the Prime Minister’s email magazine to learn more.

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