Reading on the six-party agreement

With Vice President Cheney in Tokyo to reassure the Abe Cabinet that the US “understands” Japan’s need for progress on abductions, it is worthwhile to look at a couple essays that look into the conditions surrounding the preliminary six-party agreement reached in Beijing.

First, in the Washington Post, Philip Zelikow, onetime Condoleeza Rice co-author and until recently one of her senior advisers at the State Department, outlines the State Department’s thinking in moving forward to the Beijing agreement.

Meanwhile, at Japan Focus, Gavan McCormack spells out the regional setting of the Korean question in greater detail, and points out the danger posed by this agreement to Japan:

The Nixon Shocks of 1970 would pale by comparison with such “Bush Shocks.” South Korea and Japan face especially large consequences. For Japan, dependence on the US has been the almost unquestioned foundation of national policy for over half a century. A new level of subjection to US regional and global purpose, presupposing an ongoing North Korean threat, has just been negotiated. The prospect of anything like the above shift in US Asian policy would be devastating to Tokyo. It can hardly have been coincidental that previously unimaginable rumbles of criticism of the Bush administration began to be heard from Tokyo, from the Minister of Defense and Minister of Foreign Affairs no less, over Iraq, a “mistaken” war whose justification had not existed and which had been pursued in “childish” manner, and over Okinawa, where the US was too “high-handed”. Neither earned more than the mildest of rebukes from the Prime Minister.When the Beijing deal was struck, Japan was notably the odd-man out.

This very much echoes a point I previously made here.

Both provide an interesting look at how the balance of power within the federal government changed leading to this agreement. We’ve come a long way from Newt Gingrich’s 2003 harangue against Colin Powell’s isolated, beleaguered State Department, although, of course, the State Department’s clout remains insignificant in terms of personnel and budget.

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