Sunday, April 18, 2010

Dissing Hatoyama

An odd thing popped up in Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama’s E-mail Magazine last week.

In writing about his participation in the Nuclear Security Summit, Hatoyama said,
I gave the keynote speech at the working dinner hosted by President Barack Obama of the United States. 
In the speech, I made four concrete proposals: (1) establish an integrated support center within this year to contribute to the strengthening of nuclear security in Asian countries, (2) establish technologies related to measurement and detection of nuclear material and nuclear forensics with more precise and accurate capabilities through cooperation with the United States within three years and share these technologies with other countries, (3) contribute human and financial resources to IAEA nuclear security programs, and (4) host an international conference of the World Institute for Nuclear Security (WINS) this year in Japan. 
Now the substance of the speech was not strange. It was reasonable and helpful, even established mechanisms toward further establishing an Asian regional security architecture the Alliance Managers want. The Prime Minister's proposals were part of Japan’s National Statement at the Summit.

What stunned me was that he gave the KEYNOTE SPEECH at the Summit’s working dinner.

Huh? That was the first time I heard of this. 

It was mentioned nowhere in the U.S. press or in any of the Summit briefings. A text of the speech was not on the Summit website, the Japanese Foreign Ministry's website, or Kantei. When a senior official at the Japanese Embassy was asked about the speech, he said he had not heard about it.

Something as important as a keynote from the only country that suffered a nuclear attack and America's "most important ally" should have made news. The Embassy not only should know about it, but also should have been flogging it all over town. The US should have been grateful for the support.

Now you might be thinking Hatoyama made the whole thing up. He did not. Both Kyodo and NHK gave passing mention of the speech.

So what happened here? It appears that the Obama Administration has abandoned both Hatoyama and the rhetoric of Japan being its most important alliance. More important, the Japanese Foreign Ministry did not care. Back home, the Japanese press reveled in this debacle with headlines like: "America gives up on Hatoyama: An idiot round-trips to Washington in a special aircraft" (Shukan Bunshun).

Petty third world despots were treated with more respect than Hatoyama at the Summit.

In part, folks like Malaysian Prime Minister Najib did have better handlers. Najib got audiences with the President, Vice President, Deputy Secretary of State, Treasury Secretary, USTR, and congressional leadership—call Jonathan Winer at APCO Worldwide if you want to make a silk pursue from a sow’s ear as his management of the Malaysia account was nothing less than magnificent. OK, rumor has it that it cost $25 million. (If true, why the heck did not CSIS use part of its share to have at least sodas at its event.)

Yet, what the Japanese Embassy pays Hogan & Hartsen for its lobbying and public affairs is not small change. Could it be that the contract was not renewed? Worse, has the DPJ not found a replacement?

In “Japan’s Lost Opportunity,” an op ed in the International Herald Tribune, CFR’s Shelia Smith joined in the collective condemnation of the Hatoyama government. As one of the two current spokesmodels* for the Alliance Managers (the other being AEI’s Michael Auslin), she chided Hatoyama for missing the opportunity at the Summit “to translate its commitment to disarmament into a premier spot on an emerging global agenda.” Smith’s noted repeatedly that there had been a change in government in Japan, thus slyly hinting that the new leadership was at fault for Japan’s diminishing stature. Nowhere did she say that Japan’s ambivalent, often reticient policy toward proliferation was a legacy of the 50-odd years of LDP rule.

Smith, of course, did not mention, let alone comment on Hatoyama’s Summit keynote in which he did, contrary to what she wrote, bring money and ideas to the problem.

The story here is not that the Prime Minister Hatoyama is as out of touch as he is made out to be as there are those on both sides of the Pacific who want to report that he is.

LATER: Administration sources were surprised to learn that Hatoyama had made a keynote speech. They considered his presentation more of an "intervention," a comment on his national contribution than anything formal. Their focus was on the reprimand by President Obama to the Prime Minister to speed things up and to keep his promise. Again, one wonders if the White House was more sensitive to his political dilemma if they would have been so harsh. Let's be frank, in recent times no U.S. administration has bitch-slapped a Japanese government as hard as this one.


  1. Thanks for this - I am so glad that he did not make it up - (Maybe he was not lying about having a secret Futenma plan up his sleeve a while ago!).

    It does beggar belief though that this could be let slip....

  2. I agree. It seems to me that Washington and Kasumigaseki are determined to stop Hatoyama and the DPJ. Makes me wonder if there is in fact a discreet alliance between alliance between the two already.


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