Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Hatoyama wants cooperation with Washington on North Korea policy

Japan's answer to Roh Moohyun, newly elected Prime Minister Yuko Hatoyama, has promised "a substantial reassessment of Japan's military relationship with the United States" (where have I heard that one before?). He believes that a new direction will yield positive results, given the mandate for change that both he and Obama were elected on. Yadda yadda yadda.

But at the same time, Mr Hatoyama has been suggesting more coordination and cooperation with Washington on the two countries' North Korea policy:
On North Korea, he said he approves of plans by the United States to send an envoy to Pyongyang to urge the government to return to six-nation disarmament talks. "I very much hope through that process the U.S. will be able to lead us back to the six-party talks," he said. "In that context, I welcome bilateral talks between the U.S. and North Korea. But we don't want everything to be settled in the framework of U.S. bilateral talks."

Hatoyama twice stressed the need for "close coordination" between the two countries on North Korea. He said he learned of the administration's plans for bilateral talks from newspaper reports, but he said that did not mean that others in his government were not informed ahead of time.

The Bush administration removed North Korea from a list of state sponsors of terrorism, even though the Stalinist government did not yield to Japanese pleas to provide details on Japanese citizens it abducted in the 1970s and 1980s. The U.S. decision stunned the Japanese government.

Hatoyama noted with approval that Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton met with the families of abductees during her first official trip to Japan, saying the fact that she "showed her sympathy for these people was indeed much appreciated as a message."
Sometimes I get the feeling that Hatoyama doesn't exactly know what he wants, which is why I made the Roh comment. Roh wanted to maintain the US-ROK alliance, but he wanted respect or equal status or something that wasn't always tangible or even practical. If Japan tries to go its own way or tries to visibly switch its focus toward China, Hatoyama may end up repeating many of Roh, a who at best came across as a wishy-washy fence-sitter. By the middle of the next decade, we might be asking, "Whither the US-Japan alliance?"

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