The following are some of my thoughts around President Obama’s April visit to Japan, specifically regarding the new South Korean bid for its own Obama visit. I was quoted here, and I decided that I’d get my full views out there.
According to news reports, wedging the Blue House into the crowded presidential itinerary—Obama is visiting Malaysia and the Philippines—would like end up shortening the Tokyo leg with the result that the Japanese government will not be able to offer Obama the full state visit package, emperor, banquet and all. Stretching the itinerary is unlikely to be an option, given the intense domestic focus of the embattled White House.
You know what this reminds me of? South Korea swooping in with what seemed at the time like a hastily prepared bid and grabbing a half-share in the 1998 World Cup. And the bilateral relationship is much worse now.
I suspect that at the end of the day, Prime Minister Abe will have to just grin and bear it. It’s Obama’s decision to make and he does not want to disappoint either side, but President Park Geun-hye has significantly more to lose politically.