Friday, October 14, 2011

A Most Significant Meeting

A very careful Prime Minister Noda Yoshihiko took 15 minutes out of his busy schedule on Wednesday afternoon to pay a courtesy call on former prime minister Nakasone Yasuhiro (93) at Nakasone's think tank (en). The much younger Noda stayed mostly silent, preferring to listen to the wisdom the still influential elder statesman could impart.

In paying a visit to Nakasone on Nakasone's home turf, the Prime Minister showed appropriate deference to one of Japan's most significant postwar figures. Nakasone returned the compliment, declaring that the younger man had the qualities appropriate to a prime minister. He advised the PM that if stayed on the course he has been following, keeping his head down and not making enemies, he will have a long tenure in office.

That the still sharp Nakasone paid the PM compliments was not due to any obligation the old man had to a prime minister. Nakasone regularly rubbishes Japan's current generation of politicians, no matter their status, pointing out their flaws and weaknesses. That he sees in Noda qualities of humility masking political cunning is of tremendous interest, or at least should be.

In visiting Nakasone, the PM has crossed a few more T's and dotted a few more I's. He has insulated himself from attacks from the hard right wing of Japanese politics, most of whom hold reverential views of Nakasone. He has also received a not necessarily needed but still welcome imprimatur of leadership from a man who, at least in the public eye and in the history books, is pointed out as having been an exemplar it.

Nakasone gave the PM some advice on what has been a been a sore point for Japanese prime ministers: how to behave at multilateral summits. "Summits are the Olympics for prime ministers and presidents," Nakasone told the PM. "Should you talk for 30 minutes, you will know the weight of being the representatives of one's country. It is terrifying." He continued, "What is important is to make guarded but still weighty statements." (ja)

Good advice. We will see if the PM follows through on the suggestion at the APEC summit. Perhaps then he can live down the humiliation of delegates filing out in droves during his speech to the UN General Assembly (en).

[Hat tip on the delegate walkout to Japan Probe]


F. said...

Nakasone... I admire him for still being so sharp. 93, he for sure has aged gracefully.

Anonymous said...

I once had the privilege of meeting and having a discussion with Nakasone's son when Hirofumi was still foreign minister a couple of years ago. I managed to get a photo and interestingly ever since that day I have never had any credibility problems with the Japanese side of the family, which is to say, I have a lot...and they are certainly not conservatives.

I actually asked Nakasone the younger about his father's political activism and he gave a wry smile and said something along the lines of "yeah he isn't going away"