Saturday, December 22, 2007

Will Prime Minister Fukuda Invite the South Korean President-Elect to the Hokkaidō Summit?

Conspicuously missing from the list of potential collaborators in Foreign Minister Asō and MOFA’s “Arc of Freedom and Prosperity” (Blue Book 2007, Chapter 1) was South Korea, our nearest* democratic neighbor, which also happens to live side by side with one of the most freedom- and prosperity-challenged states on the planet. To put this omission in perspective, take note that even China was listed as a state that this “concept… should also be shared” with.

Sounds had been emanating that MOFA would be dropping the concept under Prime Minister Fukuda and Foreign Minister Kōmura, though it would by no means turn to supporting totalitarianism and poverty. Then I noticed this, and liked it. Now, this article, again from the Yomiuri, reports that Mr. Fukuda will invite the newly elected President of South Korea, Lee Myung-bak to the G-8 Summit to be held next July in Hokkaidō.

This will not be an exclusive invitation, but part of an outreach to an assembly of Asian nations. (China and India of course, and who else? It’s a protocol nightmare*.) Still, there must be some significance to the fact that such intent was revealed in a meeting of the Prime Minister with the heads of the Japan-ROK, ROK-Japan Cooperation Committee**. The relationship bears watching.

In passing, I note that the Japanese chairman of the Committee is the famously nationalist ex-Prime Minister Yasuhiro Nakasone***. This may be mystifying to Western analysts unfamiliar with this neck of the woods. But it should come as no surprise to those of you who are familiar with the Asian thread in the Japanese historical narrative. Make no mistake, many powerful forces in Japan deal with history in their respective ways, some of which go against the grain of the accepted lore in the other empires but play quite nicely in this neighborhood.

* I need not remind you of the self-evident truth that the Northern Territories are an inalienable part of the Japanese territories, in case you are thinking, well, Russia is a democracy of sorts; it certainly has been prospering of late.

** Then again, this could be seen as a return of sorts to a previous Japanese approach to the G-8 Summit, most conspicuous under Prime Minister Hashimoto if I remember correctly, to seek to “represent” Asia. But I believe that this time around, we are a more humble nation.

*** That, and the fact that this appears to be a Yomiuri exclusive, makes me wonder if there are higher powers, i.e. Tsuneo Watanabe, at work.


Tim Footman said...

Remind me again - Nakasone was the guy who said that America's problems were down to pollution by inferior ethnic groups, right?

Lovely guy.

Jun Okumura said...

You're right, Tim. In a defense of sorts for Mr. Nakasone, he was surely just voicing the politically incorrect thoughts of his acquaintances in America at the time. On a personal note, I can remember that there was a bit of tension over the affirmative action being taken in the law school where I was a few years before the gaffe.

People pick up and moouth all sorts of urban legends and conventional wisdom about matters which they are otherwise unfamiliar with. Mr. Nakasone though, has shown ethnic insensitivity with regard to the domestic, where he had no such excuse, if you could call it such.