In the face of China’s continued rise and increased assertiveness, strengthened U.S. engagement in Asia — as evidenced by U.S. President Barack Obama’s official visit to Thailand, Cambodia and Myanmar so soon after his re-election — is good news for Japan and the region, whether you refer to it as a “pivot” or a “rebalance.”

Yet, lost in the talk of reinvigorated diplomatic and defense cooperation between the United States and its Pacific allies is the need for further steps to increase critical business-to-business and people-to-people contacts. Such interactions are a valuable cornerstone of both commercial and “cultural diplomacy” and can enhance traditional diplomatic relationships in subtle, wide-ranging and more sustainable ways.

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