Dialogue delayed

Defense Minister Ishiba, scheduled to visit Washington as part of the annual Golden Week pilgrimage of Japanese politicians and meet with Secretary of Defense Gates to discuss the alliance in broad terms, will not be visiting after all. The most likely reason for the cancellation is the fluid situation in the Diet, not to mention Mr. Ishiba’s own vulnerable position (although it is less vulnerable now than it was about a month ago).

It is unfortunate that Messrs. Ishiba and Gates will be unable to talk about the future of the alliance and the realignment of US forces, as both men are serious thinkers who would likely be willing to address the alliance’s problems head on instead of resorting to the old mantras. Look back at Mr. Gates’s speech at Sophia University in November, in which he asked several important questions about the future of the US-Japan relationship: given the opportunity, Mr. Gates might even be able to make an important contribution to changing the alliance.

He is unlikely to get such an opportunity.

Thanks to domestic politics on both sides of the Pacific, the discussion that the allies need to have about the relationship will continue to be postponed, at least until the inception of a new presidential administration, and even then, Iraq will continue to ensure that presidential attention is directed elsewhere.

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