This week Prime Minister Yasuo Fukuda stepped up efforts to recalibrate Japan’s foreign policy. His visit to the ASEAN summit and its associated meetings were designed to focus attention on the Asia component of Japan’s foreign relations. Key to that effort are his meetings with Chinese Prime Minister Wen Jiabao and South Korean President Roh Moo Hyun. Some see this as an overdue correction in Tokyo’s strategic outlook; others worry that attention given to Asia detracts from ties with the United States. The latter criticism betrays outdated thinking about Japanese foreign policy. Strong ties with the U.S. are a cornerstone of Japanese diplomacy, but they are no substitute for strong relations with our Asian neighbors.

Relations with China and South Korea have been on the rebound for over a year. Former Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi’s insistence on visiting Yasukuni Shrine deeply offended those nations and froze Japan’s relations with both countries. When Mr. Shinzo Abe succeeded Mr. Koizumi last year, his first order of business was visiting Beijing and Seoul to put those relations to right. He managed to halt the slide. When Mr. Wen reciprocated Mr. Abe’s visit earlier this year, he put his personal stamp on a new and revitalized Japan-China relationship.

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