Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton meets today with her Japanese counterpart in Hawaii. As I commented on the future state of U.S. relations with Japan in an earlier note, I wanted to use this Hawaii confabulation as a revisit opportunity of my earlier comments. Media, in particular Japanese media, has built up this meeting as a crisis summit over the U.S. military basing issue in Okinawa. In my earlier post I predicted:

On the issues of common enemies, over time the U.S. can expect friction from the DPJ on the housing and support of nearly 50,000 American troops on Japanese soil. The move of U.S. Marines from Okinawa to Guam, started under the LDP will accelerate and be completed before the 2014 deadline. The brunt of the cost ($6 billion of the $10 billion price tag) presently being born by Japan will be a topic of discussion and there will probably be an adjustment made to appease the DPJ.

As the Japanese public experiences a little bit of buyers remorse in presenting the DPJ a landslide victory, Hatoyame has had to ratchet up the expected friction in the matter of the Okinawa base. My prediction that: The DPJ has an aggressive domestic agenda that will keep it preoccupied in the short-term and if anything, will support U.S. National Interests by giving the U.S. some adjustment time as it continues to mend some of its own international bridges… was not so accurate. I expected at least another six months for the base issue to become a central topic of discussion. That it is a topic of discussion at the cabinet level is no surprise, however. The Japanese warn in the proverb: Hi wa kiyurédomo tô-shin wa hiyédzu. (Though the flame be put out, the wick remains). The flame that brought Hatoyame to power was quietly extinguished with regards to the base issue, but the issue never went away. The wick was always there—it just ignited quicker than many expected.
In today's casual talks in Hawaii, Secretary Clinton will have to balance our short-term national interest concerns with world-class diplomacy. As I warned in my earlier post:

Japan and the DPJ will be looking for more respect and a leading role in the international arena. Initially they will attempt to make good on their domestic election promises, but their international interests are closely connected to many of the domestic issues challenging Japan.

All is well in the U.S. relationship with Japan. The time table to discuss the basing issue has been accelerated slightly which plays well for Hatoyame and is an issue the U.S. will handle with aplomb. U.S. national interests will not be severely tried with this change in the Japanese political landscape. I predicted in my last post on the subject. Matéba, kanrô no hiyori. The Japanese suggest, If you wait, ambrosial weather will come.