The Obama administration wastes no time

Responding to yesterday’s election, President Barack Obama has issued an innocuous statement congratulating Japan on its “historic election,” but the Obama administration appears that it will waste no time in establishing the terms of the relationship with the Hatoyama government.

Yomiuri reports that Secretary of Defense Robert Gates will be visiting Japan in mid-October for discussions with the new government on alliance issues in advance of the president’s trip to Japan scheduled for November. And before Gates arrives, Kurt Campbell, the assistant secretary of state for East Asian and Pacific affairs, will come around 16 September, around the time the new government is expected to form. I think Gates’s visit may be well timed, but Campbell’s strikes me as a bit too soon. Then again, if Hatoyama wants to meet with Obama while in the US for the opening of the UN General Assembly, perhaps a visit sooner rather than later is advisable.

On the face of it, I think this is a meaningful gesture on the part of the Obama administration, provided that Campbell and Gates listen as much as they speak when they visit Tokyo. The US-Japan alliance, as much an institution of LDP rule as other, more familiar institutions, will not be unaffected by the transition to the Hatoyama government, and the sooner the two governments find a way to manage the transition the better it will be for the relationship.

At the same time, the early visits by the two officials will put pressure on the DPJ to have its act together by the time Campbell arrives.

One thought on “The Obama administration wastes no time

  1. Asahi had an interesting poll, asking each candidate several questions (including if they supported foreign residents getting voting rights in local elections). They also posed a very clear challenge to each candidate: do you support a UN-Japan or US-Japan style foreign policy?I hope someone will take the time to think about the replies, as they should have some significance on how the new government will chose to deal with the issues you raise here.

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