Wednesday, February 05, 2014

Off-the-Cuff: Some Thoughts around President Obama’s April Visit

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.

But that doesn’t mean that Abe has to like that. In fact, he and his advisors, and relevant cabinet and sub-cabinet members will resent it mightily. It will make him that much less fond of the Obama administration and more broadly the Democrats and inclined to long for what the LDP has traditionally seen as a more Japan-friendly Republican administration. It is likely to make him less inclined, if only slightly so, to be mindful of US desires when he is motivated to march to his own drum. 

1 comment:

ArmchairAsia said...

But the three advocates of Obama visiting South Korea, as displayed in their Washington Post op ed, are ALL Republican Bush Admin Japan hands: Mike Green, Richard Armitage, and Victor Cha. Yes, Victor does Korea but he takes plenty of money from Japan. The Abe people believe Green and Armitage are their best buddies ever. So it appears that even the conservative Republicans have had it with Abe & Co.