Thursday, July 20, 2006

Come to think of it, that is weird...

In an analysis article on the third page of Tuesday's Sankei Shimbun...

[I have some problems with the title of this article. "'Seiji shudō' fumidasu: anpori jōnin rijikoku no kabe dakai kagi" is nonsensical. If you had a key, why would you need to "break through the wall surrounding the Security Council"? Why not just use the key and open the door? And what's with the quotation marks around seiji shudō ? What part of "political initiative" do I not understand?]
...the author highlights as weird (mezurashii) that the Japanese and U.S. efforts in the UN Security Council were coordinated at the highest levels through a series of telephone calls (at least four) between Chief Cabinet Secretary Abe Shinzō and White House National Security Advisor Stephen Hadley. A Prime Minister's Residence staffer is quoted as saying he(?) could recall a single instance of former Chief Cabinet Secretary Fukuda Yasuo coordinating policies with the then NSA Condoleezza Rice.

The equating of Chief Cabinet Secretary (CCS) with the NSA is more than a bit weird. International policy coordination is not one of the usual bailiwicks of the CCS. The CCS is the government's official spokesman. He is also the chief traffic policeman keeping tabs on the policy drafting and presentation process. Furthermore, as the person just below the prime minister in stature, the CCS must far outrank the NSA in protocol terms.

So why the coordination between Abe and Hadley?

First guess - Abe's personal links with the policy production apparat on the East Coast of the United States. He has been a frequent guest of the Washington chattering classes and power brokerages. He must have come to know Hadley along the way.

The conversations between the two must have been rather smooth.

By contrast, the mind boggles at the thought of Minister of Foreign Affairs Aso Tarō and Secretary of State Rice trying to transcend their quirks to carry out a substantive conversation over strategy. Just thinking of this imaginary conversation between the two ostensible pilots of Japan's and America's foreign policies finds me unconsciously retreating into the Merkel cringe.

With Abe likely to make an immaculate ascension to the premiership, will this policy coordination channel dry up? Or do we have a new institutionalized back-channel appropriate to the needs of the post-9/11 Japan-U.S. relationship?

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