The trip had to be made. It is traditional for a Japanese prime minister to make his first overseas trip to the United States, to affirm relations with the country’s only ally. With reports of tensions growing in the bilateral security relationship, Mr. Yasuo Fukuda’s visit to Washington last week took on more urgency than usual. But the visit itself — a mere 26 hours — consisted of little more than photo ops and pro forma reassurances that the alliance continues to be strong and each country’s concerns are shared by its partner. Turning that rhetoric into reality is another matter, however.

Neither Tokyo nor Washington is likely to be happy with its partner’s actions in the weeks to come. The Japan-U.S. relationship has been battered by recent developments. The landslide win of the opposition Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ) in the July Upper House elections has shifted the balance of power in the Diet to some extent and DPJ President Ichiro Ozawa appears to be trying to use that momentum to paralyze the Diet and force a general election.

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