Obama has high hopes for Japan relations, expert says

by Jun Hongo

Japan should stabilize its political situation so it can bolster ties with Washington instead of worrying about the United States possibly prioritizing ties with China, experts on Japan-U.S. relations said Thursday in Tokyo.

Robert Orr, former president of Boeing Japan and an adviser to the campaign of President Barack Obama, assured that the new president has “more interest in Japan than you might think” and that ties with Tokyo are of interest to both Democrats and Republicans.

“Japan will remain the window for U.S. policy in Asia,” he told a news conference at the Foreign Correspondents’ Club of Japan.

Orr added that although Obama will probably stress the denuclearization of North Korea in his Asian policy, he will also work hard on resolving the abduction issue.

The U.S. will ask Japan to become a global partner and jointly work toward environmental conservation and promotion of efficient energy use, Orr said.

However, if the revolving door to the prime minister’s office continues, it might be difficult to build strong personal ties with Obama, he cautioned.

On concerns that the U.S. will bypass Japan and favor China as its chief Asian ally, experts agreed that such anxiety is unfounded.

“I do not believe that the U.S. considers China a full-fledged democratic entity like Japan,” said Hitoshi Tanaka, senior fellow at the Japan Center for International Exchange and a former vice foreign minister. Tanaka acknowledged that Washington will expand its ties with Beijing but argued that this should not be a cause for concern.