Saturday, December 20, 2008

DPJ Leaders and National Security Figures from US Democratic Party Hold Talks with an Eye on Administration Transitions

That is the headline for this Sankei report. According to the article, Naoto Kan, Yukio Hatoyama, Katsuya Okada, Seiji Maehara—the DPJ’s four ex-leaders—and other DPJ members met national security figures from the Democratic Party yesterday at a hotel in Tokyo. Hatoyama even held a press conference, where he explained, “We received a valuable piece of indication that it is important to deepen exchanges between the U.S> Democratic Party and the DPJ.”

So who were these Democratic figures? Senator John Kerry okay, Joseph Nye okay, though he did support Hillary Clinton throughout the primaries, John Hamre wait, is this the same John Hamre that Robert Gates, the low-key Republican, brought in to chair the Defense Policy Board Advisory Committee when he became Defense Secretary?, and Michael Green hey, he’s a Republican, who served in the Bush White House and most recently worked for John McCain’s presidential campaign

The common thread running through these men, or at least the last three, is the Center for Strategic and International Studies, the determinedly non-partisan go-to think tank for the Washington establishment. Nye is a trustee, Hamre is the president, and Green is the Japan Chair. Green played a significant role in putting together the Nye-Armitage Reports, the first of which served as a bipartisan roadmap for the United States’ strategic relations with Japan under George Bush and Junichiro Koizumi. The same three could have served at least as well as an emissary for John McCain.

So where does Kerry fit into this picture? Well, we are talking about a Democratic administration, and he didn’t get a cabinet post, so why not? Actually, there’s a personal link here. During the 2004 presidential campaign, then-DPJ party leader Okada pointedly visited John Kerry but not Bush, professing a DPJ affinity with its U.S. namesake, with the war in Iraq, always unpopular in Japan, hovering in the background. Which reminds us, doesn’t it, that friend-of-Bush Tom Shieffer’s days are numbered either way?

In fact, a deeper look into the overall picture reveals that the meeting was merely an episode, albeit a significant one, of a greater effort by the unchanging, bipartisan foreign policy and national security establishment in Washington to use the opportunity of a staged event in its bipartisan political program—the U.S.-Japan Strategic Leadership Program for Japanese Diet Members—to reaffirm its interlocutory prerogatives as the United States goes through its own political transition. Indeed the LDP Prime Minister Aso himself delivered the words of greetings at the reception for the event. The meeting with DPJ members held on the side of the event was decidedly not the D-to-D hugfest of Hatoyama’s imagination. (Sankei to my surprise bit—didn’t have time to call Yoshihisa Komori in Washington I suppose—so you could say it worked.)

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