Saturday, November 14, 2009

More Tourists: part 2

The Obama visit to Japan must have gotten a bit crowded a couple of times today, as the American President was accompanied by his three best friends, Me, Myself, and I, during his speech at Suntory Hall.

On the positive side:

He didn't forget the abduction issue when he spoke about North Korea problems.

He specifically mentioned the Treaty alliances with Japan, South Korea, Australia, Thailand and the Philippines as being "...fundamental to our shared security".

The resurrection of the Doha round of the WTO talks was implied by his call to continue working toward an agreement.

He made a renewed commitment to America providing the "nuclear umbrella" in the defense of both Japan and South Korea, "so long as these weapons exist".

Iran was mentioned alongside North Korea as part of the larger weapons-proliferation problem. Locals tend to see those as different problems, but they aren't and it was good to keep them together in the public view. Pity Burma wasn't mentioned in this context, nor Syria.

Bringing up the issue of Human Trafficking, one of the remaining Human Rights scourges of East Asia, and speaking of means to counter that trafficking was a very good thing. This issue has been shamefully overlooked.

On the negative side:

No mention was made of the Northern Territories matter, nor of Russia at all.

Completely left out of all discussions was the fundamental nature of the Japan-America military alliance, that Americans can be asked to die for Japan's defense, but that Japan will not (some argue 'can not') fight for the defense of America other than in the course of its self-defense if war were to come. It remains a protectorate relationship, and until Japan finds a way to *be* an equal partner, it won't be anything else.

Far too much focus was placed on matters of Climate Change -driven activities, and on claiming that progress is being made on both the Burma and North Korea issues. The first can be explained by that being the *only* matter where a substantial agreement was produced as part of this visit... although one can't be very substantial about "striving for success in Copenhagen". The second could have been meaningful, but neither depending on Six-Party Talks with North Korea nor extending the "Sen. Webb goes to Myanmar" approach to Burma have a whole lot of promise of reaching what could be called success; they are at best means of process.

If I hear "Let me be clear:..." one more time in an Obama speech, the possibility of spontaneous combustion on my part can not be ignored. It is an ugly pretension, and it takes away from what ever else the man is saying. The "America's first Pacific President" claim was another annoyance. Hint to the Man in the Oval Office: Really, boss, it is *not* always all about you.

And then, it was off to lunch with His Imperial Majesty and The Imperial Consort.

Well, at least he tried to show respect. If it were I in the position of a being both a Head of State and a visitor calling upon the Imperial Family, I would have gone with the simultaneous bow (understanding that tennou heika bows very little) and then a handshake if His Majesty offered one. This probably wasn't the best move, as some Americans do get upset about Presidents bowing to anyone and more to the point it looked awkward as all heck. Thankfully, His Imperial Majesty is known to be a rather forgiving fellow about such things.

I'd comment about the lunch itself, and the discussions at that time, but the Imperial Household Agency is quite strict about keeping those sort of things absolutely privileged... only an interpreter accompanied the three during the meal.

So, to wrap up as President Obama is on his way to Singapore now:

...not much got done

...not much was expected

...nothing went horribly wrong

...and Ambassador Roos got a visit from his buddy (and then apparently turned invisible, which is may be the first correct thing he's done in his months here. When the President is in-country, the Ambassador becomes a third wheel if he tries to be involved.)

Let's hope the rest of this trip goes as this did, and we can all get back to doing things instead of just talking about doing things.

1 comment:

L.Douglas Garrett said...


An amusing side note from the AP correspondent with the entourage:

"It was one of the few times being the president of the United States doesn't mean an automatic schedule change.

Obama's entourage was running ahead of schedule; aides considered moving up a scheduled lunch with Japanese Emperor Akihito and Empress Michiko.

Not so fast, Mr. President.

Obama deferred to protocol and arrived on time for lunch on the ancient palace grounds, past a moat and through manicured gardens for a rare audience with the emperor."

And then, there is this item by Itou Masami (Masami Ito) on how little was really achieved.

personal aside: M. Ito is the gem of the Japan Times writing staff. Somebody give this reporter a raise.