Around the world, many are taking stock of SoS Clinton's trip to Asia, particularly with regards to Japan, China and South Korea. (For the moment, I would like to put Indonesia aside). To guage the trip from an Asia-Pacific perspective, I went through and pulled some excerpts from the English-language media editorials from Northeast Asia (highlights mine):
"Ms. Clinton apparently chose Japan as the first stopover in her first overseas trip as secretary of state to reassure Japan that the United States is not giving priority to its ties with China. But the U.S. regards Japan-U.S. ties as part of its large strategy toward the Asia-Pacific region. Japan needs to carefully study the Obama administration's strategy. The U.S. may call for more Japanese contributions to the stabilization of Afghanistan and Pakistan. Japan should develop its own approaches to the issue based on its own principles and clearly present them to the U.S. before being told by Washington to do something...
"...The top diplomats of Japan and the U.S. signed a new pact under which the Japanese government will make direct contributions of up to $2.8 billion for relocating some 8,000 U.S. marines and their dependents from Okinawa to Guam. Japan should make sure that the money is used solely for reasonable related projects. The pact says the marines' transfer depends on the move of Futenma Air Station from Ginowan to Nago. The government should solve the Futenma issue as soon as possible by striking a feasible compromise with the Okinawan prefectural government."
Daily Yomiuri (Japan)
In a forum at the Keizai Koho Center Symposium, Koji Murata, professor of political science at Doshisha University's Faculty of Law, had this to say, which I feel is quite true:
"In summing up the three-hour conference, Murata said, "sometimes the Japanese people tend to think only in a bilateral perspective about this particular relationship [with the United States]. However, whether you like it or not, our bilateral relationship is becoming global in nature. So, relatively speaking, it is not that our bilateral relationship is becoming less important, but out bilateral relationship is becoming increasingly intertwined into the global picture and the global relationship.""
"On Friday, Yu and Clinton agreed to closely cooperate in tackling the North Korea issue to foil any reckless attempt by the North to keep South Korea and the United States apart. It is imperative that the traditional allies work together to prove that it is futile for the North to resort to its anachronistic policy of having direct talks with the United States while marginalizing the South.
"In this regard, we welcome the agreement between the top diplomats that they will push for the "complete and verifiable'' dismantlement of the North's nuclear programs through the six-nation talks. It is urgent that Seoul and Washington translate the accord into action to prod the world's last Stalinist country to return to the table and make good on its commitments to deunclearization."
"Although the Unification Ministry said that Kim Jong-il was firmly in power in the North, the government must prepare for all eventualities, including succession in the North. As Clinton said, both Washington and Seoul must come up with a strategy that is "effective in influencing the behavior of the North Koreans at a time when the whole leadership situation is somewhat unclear.""
"At present, further developing Chinese-U.S. ties is more essential than ever before, and both sides need to seize the opportunity and meet the challenges together to push forward their relationship, which is the most important of bilateral relationships globally in this century.
"The global financial crisis has provided a chance for China and the United States to reinforce mutual trust and cooperation. The two countries should join hands to tackle the crisis and pull the world economy out of the quagmire at an early date.
"During U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's just-concluded visit to China, both sides agreed to increase communication and coordination in the face of the financial crisis and work together to lead the Group of 20 summit in London in April to tangible results.
"It is therefore imperative that China and the United States improve and give full play to their bilateral mechanisms, strengthen consultation and coordination in multilateral frameworks, oppose trade and investment protectionism in all forms and take measures to tide over the current economic difficulties."
I think SoS Clinton essentially had a very decent trip and accomplished the following:
- Reassured Japan that the U.S. still views their relationship as key to success in the Asia-Pacific, on both economic and security issues;
- Reassured South Korea that they would not be sidelined in any future deliberations and activity on the North Korea issues
- Reassured China that the global economy is currently top priority, but that there is an expectation of progress on other issues in relation to the Chinese economy
As I have been emphasizing in this series and as others, such as Rich at All Roads, recommend, the Obama Administration must take all these pieces and work them into an integrated strategy where all the interdependencies are well understood and leveraged for success in the region.
SoS Clinton is obviously a powerhouse on the national stage, but as I have mentioned before in Part III, she is just one of the "three legs" upon which President Obama's administration will stand. So far, it looks like the disappointing leg is SoT Geithner, as he is mired in having to support the horrible, so-called "stimulus" package passed by Congress and now tasked to add even more debt to the U.S. government. Let us hope that early successes in foreign policy are not undermined by mistakes made at home.