Saturday, October 20, 2012

The Washington Establishment Gets Worried, Boards Aircraft

Reading the below report makes me sigh:

In Asia Trip, U.S. Group Will Tackle Islands Feud
The New York Times

October 19, 2012 - The visit, backed by Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, follows a naval exercise by China on Friday to support its territorial claims and talk by a prominent candidate for prime minister in Japan about stationing personnel on the islands to improve security.

"As each side tries to assert its position, there is a risk of an inadvertent escalation of tensions and even confrontation,” said James B. Steinberg, who served as the deputy secretary of state in the Obama administration and is one of those on the trip. "The question is, how we get back to the relative stability in which the islands were in dispute but people were not trying to change facts on the ground."

Other members of the group include Richard L. Armitage, who served as deputy secretary of state under President George W. Bush; Stephen J. Hadley, Mr. Bush's national security adviser; and Joseph S. Nye Jr., a former Pentagon and intelligence official in the Clinton administration.

The group is scheduled to meet with Japan's prime minister, Yoshihiko Noda, on Monday and to visit with the Chinese leadership on Tuesday. China has not informed the group with whom they will be meeting.

The trip was arranged after Mr. Steinberg and other members of the group discussed what might be done to tamp down the tensions over the islands, which are called Diaoyu in Chinese and Senkaku in Japanese.

After the idea of a visit was pitched to State Department aides, Mrs. Clinton endorsed it, giving it a quasi-official status...

Out of respect to the principle that if one has real problems with a person, one should keep one's opinions to oneself, I will refrain from saying what I think of these individuals. The exception would be Hadley, about whom I know nothing, save that he served on the Bush White House national security team, whose provision of nationial security was...mixed?

If the group is coming to the Prime Minister's Residence to deliver the message that the assertions heretofore made by the U.S. government -- that the Senkakus fall under the writ of the Japan-U.S. Security Arrangements -- are true only in theory, that would be something Prime Minister Noda needs to know immediately. As to any other ideas the quartet might present, the PM probably will listen to them and digest them -- not necessarily for what they say on the surface (one has to leave open the possibility someone in the quartet knows something about China the GOJ does not), but for what they say regarding the prejudices and preoccupations of the slices of America's transnational policy elite each member of the quarter of represents.

This Cabinet and the rest of the Japanese government are not the gang of uniformed innocents America's permanent foreign policy establishment believes them to be.

[An aside: one of the favorite demeaning tales with which members of the American policy elite regale themselves is the "amateurish" attempt by the Kan government to prosecute the Chinese fishing boat captain who rammed two Japan Coast Guard vessels off the Senkakus in 2010. Contrary to the conventional wisdom, the Kan government, the JCG and the Japanese judicial system behaved as true professionals, handling in an open, formal and neutral manner a situation no one had considered before as regards the Senkakus: an unprovocked attack on Japanese government personnel by a foreign assailant in an area under the administration of Japan. What was amateurish was rice-eating surrender monkey and then Chief Cabinet Secretary's Yoshito Sengoku's interference in the judicial process in the face of ham-handed Chinese pressure, then his denial of having done so.]

I cannot help but smile at the seeming pointlessness of the itinerary, at least as it is described in The New York Times. They do not know whom they are meeting in Beijing. I do not know what other folks do -- but when I walk out my front door I try to know in advance whom it is I am going out to meet. And even if the quartet did know, Beijing is in the midst of a leadership transition thrown into chaos by the Bo Xilai affair and Xi Jinping's mysterious disappearances. The quartet have no idea whether or not Madame Secretary of Ministry X will, come December, be Madame Nobody.

As for meeting with the Anaconda himself -- oh, why give the secret away...

Later - A much belated afterthought...but if there were a way for Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to broadcast her lack of confidence in the skills and contacts of Ambassador to Japan John Roos and Ambassador to China Gary Locke, and all the other diplomats working in those embassies, it would be to give official recognition to an ad hoc Track II mission with only half an itinerary.

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