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.