The discussion appears to have been part of routine meeting on the foreign policy agenda in advance of Prime Minister Fukuda’s visit to Washington next month, and so some might say that of course he would repeat Washington’s fervent desire that the MSDF continue refueling coalition warships in the Indian Ocean.
But he should have said something along the lines of, “The US government has made its wishes known, but we recognize that this is a decision that the Japanese government and people must make for themselves. We will respect whatever decision results from Japan’s democratic process.”
The intrusion of the US government through Ambassador Schieffer’s comments (and sniping with the DPJ) is one of the more regrettable aspects of this debate, and probably played an important role in raising the stakes for all involved. And so the US may indeed get its wish of continuing Japanese involvement in the coalition, but it will be in spite of the activities of the US government and its emissary in Tokyo.