Monday, March 16, 2009

What Do You Make of the New U.S. Ambassador in Tokyo?

I thought so.

Well, as long as people don’t notice and wouldn’t care if they did…Actually, I’m posting this to use my negative powers of prediction to hasten the nomination of whomever. And it’s probably not Joseph Nye. There, I’ve said it. Now, place your bets.

Seriously, the tranquilizing effect of a 1.5-hour interview in Washington and a three-day trip to Tokyo is amazing. Japan is definitely low priority on the Obama agenda; every nation should be so lucky.


Janne Morén said...

I've long been interested in Swedish politics, following both national and international issues since when I could vote; and yet, I can to this day not name a single ambassador to Sweden from any country or remember ever having heard about anyone in the national news. There must have been notices when an ambassador changed of course, but not so I ever noticed.

I can't help the feeling that this level of preoccupation is rare, and if this delay makes the identity of the ambassador more of a non-issue than that is probably mostly a good thing.

Anonymous said...

Oh, wait until we see the preoccupation with who the National Security Council staffer for Japan is.

Col. S

Added Entry said...

Moving Marines from Futenma to Guam will be on the new ambassador's "To Do List" -- latest news and developments from Guam

Inoue Satoshi's Visit to Guam on March 8-9 while leading a JCP investigation team

Chamber Poll Shows Guam Supports Military Buildup

Speaker Judith Won Pat

Speaker Won Pat Says Japanese Communist Party Took Apart Her Words

Guam Residents Unhappy About Relocation of US Marines from Okinawa

JCP in Diet criticizes government for accepting unreasonable request for money to help relocate U.S. Marines to Guam

Jun Okumura said...

Janne, Col. S: I think that this dates back to the post-WW II occupation years, when Douglas MacArthur extended U.S. benevolence, sometimes at risk of countermanding his own government. I do not know how much of the goodwill towards and trust in him has been transmitted over the decades to the subsequent roster of envoys, but it cannot be denied that the ambassador been seen as a figure who represents the US national interest but somehow transcends on behalf of the greater good that is the bilateral relationship. As such, the ambassador is expected (by the Japanese side) to be willing and able to speak, if necessary, on behalf of the Japanese people.

This dependency is more broadly reflected in the noticeable reliance on Japan hands—often but by no means bilingual interlocutors formal and informal who explain, if not necessarily represent, the Japanese viewpoint and Japanese interests to Washington, Manhattan, and (as it were) Peoria. Thus, every new administration is scrutinized for these familiar faces and is graded according to the tally. Not that we Japanese should not cherish these people for who they are and what they do, but surely directly accessing and communicating with the people who matter regardless of their background is at least as significant as tending to the fraternity of friends of Japan.

So let’s hope not, Col. S—beyond the normal level of professional interest on the part of the Japanese authorities, that is.

Added Entry: I believe that the transfer of the U.S. Marines to Guam is one of the easiest parts of the realignment package. It when something has to be moved elsewhere in Japan that the trouble begins. The DPJ has made noises regarding the amount of compensation to defray the costs of moving to Guam, but a DPJ administration would have to abrogate a treaty to back out of the payment. Besides, the U.S. government cannot be blamed for cutting the best deal for itself. The DPJ will blame the LDP for not looking after Japan’s best interests, then move on. The ambassador’s job on this deal will be to do his (her?) best to make sure that no one on the U.S. side says or does anything to upset people on the Japanese side, and go around apologizing when required. That is a useful role, but nothing to get excited about. Perhaps that is why Joseph Nye is saying thanks, but no thanks. (Or so I assume.) In any case, the JCP and its comments can be ignored as far as this point is concerned, since it has no allies in the Diet.