U.S. Senator Jim Webb led a team of six congressional lawmakers to Japan earlier this week in an effort to push U.S. – Japan ties. Webb, the senior senator from Virginia, is known as something of an Asiaphile. Having served as a Marine officer in Vietnam, Webb has also written about and travelled extensively throughout Asia. Webb is also a former U.S. Secretary of the Navy and Assistant Secretary of Defense.
Unfortunately, the timing of Webb’s main event — a conference of businessmen, academia, and government officials — conflicted with Japanese domestic — and internal party — politics:
A dozen Japanese lawmakers from the DPJ and opposition parties were scheduled to attend the conference but some were absent. Those who did put in an appearance mostly zoomed in and out of the conference room at Hotel Okura, presumably to go back to sessions at parliament several blocks away. (Among those who were absent from the day’s sessions were Shinjiro Koizumi, a rising star of the opposition Liberal Democratic Party of Japan and son of former prime minister Junichiro Koizumi.)
What was the big draw elsewhere? The Lower House budget committee was in session, where Prime Minister Naoto Kan and his deputies are continuing desperate efforts to persuade opposition members to approve the budget for the next fiscal year, as well as other critical legislation needed to execute the budget. An even bigger show: The DPJ Tuesday formally decided to suspend its scandal-tainted former leader, Ichiro Ozawa, from the party following his recent indictment. The move has already prompted some Ozawa-loyalists to rebel against the party leadership, raising the speculation Mr. Kan could be forced out of his job within the next few months.
Well, it was a nice try.
Unfortunately for Japan and the United States, Jim Webb is not seeking re-election in 2012. One hopes that part of his master plan of bringing the other five along with him is to groom congressmen and women who will outlast him similarly interested in maintaining U.S. – Japanese ties. A short headcount of the U.S. Senate doesn’t bring too many U.S. – Japan boosters to mind, and those I can think of, like Sen. Inouye…actually, he’s the only other one I can think of. Senator Inouye is very old. Hmm. Message to Japanese politicians: that meeting you skipped out on was perhaps more important than you realize.
A contributor and editor at the blog War Is Boring, Kyle Mizokami started Japan Security Watch in 2010 to further understand Japan's defenses and security policy.
Kyle Mizokami has 536 post(s) on Japan Security Watch