Friday, November 16, 2007


Prime Minister Fukuda is visiting Washington today – but you’d hardly know it if you didn’t read the paper. Actually, that won’t help much – The Washington Post had nothing to say. The Financial Times had an article on the visit and some of the issues they may discuss, but they must think Fukuda is a bit cuckoo – their photo subtitle labeled him as “Kukuda.” (Really, the FT can do better than that…)

Perhaps Bush will serve some American beef at their working lunch, just like he did for Fukuda’s predecessor, but there is certainly no casual time planned at Camp David (as with Abe), at the Crawford Ranch (as with Germany’s Merkel), and most certainly no state dinner as Sarkozy recently received.

It seems that the era of unimpressive Japanese Prime Ministers has returned. Remember Takeshita, Uno, Kaifu, Miyazawa, Hosokawa, Hata, Murayama, Hashimoto, Obuchi, or Mori? Those were the men between an unforgettable Nakasone and the memorable and long-serving Koizumi. Remember Bush and his trip down to Memphis, sunglasses and Koizumi’s air guitar act to boot?

However, despite claims that US-Japan relations “are critically important,” the current visit by Prime Minister Fukuda, when compared to recent visits by other heads of state, does not seem to match the rhetoric that is being used to describe the state of the relationship, and is most certainly not being afforded the same symbolism extended to Russia, Germany, or France.