At the East Asia Forum site, Tobias Harris comments on the Obama Administration's relationship with Japan in the context of where their Asia-Pacific strategy is heading. Basically, the State Department is moving ahead with releasing details of who will be visiting where. We already know President Obama will visit Canada. Mr. Harris comments that V.P. Biden will be first to China:
"The US State Department has told the Yomiuri Shimbun that it intends to initiate a high-level "comprehensive strategic dialogue" that will address political, economic, and security issues and will include an exchange of visits by Vice President Joe Biden and Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao."
Mr. Harris goes on to discuss Japan's concerns, but I won't get into that now. He later mentions SoS Clinton will be first to Japan:
"The Obama administration — apparently after months of hearing reports about Tokyo’s fears regarding the incoming administration’s ideas regarding Japan — has done more than enough to reassure Japan’s leaders that the new administration will not deviate from the Washington establishment’s Japan consensus. Most recently, Susan Rice, the US ambassador to the UN, told her Japanese counterpart that the president and secretary of state are in agreement about the need to strengthen the US-Japan alliance, and indicated that the Obama administration will basically continue the Bush administration’s Japan agenda: requesting help in Afghanistan and in regard to other international crises, while promising US support on North Korea and UN security council permanent membership. Even more than that, the State Department has announced that Secretary Clinton’s first foreign trip will be to Japan, in mid-February."
Basically, these visits will be part of the strategy formulation process for the Obama Administration towards developing their grand strategy for the Asia-Pacific (or, so I hope). Biden is relatively neutral in that his position and role is flexible and not tied to a specific bureaucracy. He also has had experience working in detail on China issues in the Senate. Clinton will be a familiar face in warding off Japan's early concerns. In business terms, these are essentially "site surveys" designed to get a sense of the current leadership in these countries and begin to identify the various paths forward in developing strategy.
I like the fact that the U.S. #1 and #2 leaders--Obama and Biden--are visiting our #1 and #2 trading partners, while Clinton visits the #2 economy in the world. My hope is that this is because they are looking to stress their support of free, global trade and find new ways to improve upon the strong, existing trade relationships with these countries--ways that improve not only our trade position at home but also in these countries' domestic markets. Current rules may need to be revised, new rules written, but in the end, with the goal of strengthening the quality of the connectivity driven by globalization.