In my column on the new regime in Japan I suggested that Assistant Secretary of State for East Asia Kurt Campbell was hostile to the idea of Japan taking the lead and trying to integrate more with its neighbors. It’s worth saying that at a CSIS event on Wednesday, Campbell addressed this topic and said it wasn’t so:
I also think that one of the things that we’ve heard from DPJ, for instance, is a desire to have a closer and deeper relationship in Asia with both South Korea and China. And that has sometimes been posited as something that the United States is either against or threatened by. Nothing could be further from the case. We would like to see Japan play a stronger leadership role as partners with friends and Asia, and we will support that. We also believe, in that process, they will come to appreciate and understand the significance of the U.S.-Japan alliance.
Of course it’s easy to say nice things. The question is whether, in practice, we would encourage or discourage close allies like Japan and Australia from participating in regional institutions that include China but don’t include the United States. Of course the DPJ will primarily be dealing with the economic situation, so in practice this question may not arise for some time. But I think it’s worth preparing ourselves.