Obama-McCain Rivalry Reaches Around the World
By Michael Abramowitz
TOYAKO, Japan -- Japanese Prime Minister Yasuo Fukuda showed diplomatic dexterity in avoiding a direct question Sunday about the U.S. presidential elections.
During his news conference here with President Bush, I asked Fukuda whether he was "paying close attention to the American election? And in particular, I'm curious if you can discern any differences right now between the two candidates as it relates to Japan."
Fukuda had a few minutes to develop his response as Bush answered a different question, about why he was attending the opening ceremonies of the Olympic Games in Beijing next month. Then Fukuda seemed to decide that he would rather answer a question about the Olympics than U.S. politics. (Of course, it's also possible that he just missed the question.)
When it was his turn to speak, Fukuda looked up and said, "Well, your question for me, was it along the same line, as well? Well, and if that is the case...." He then proceeded to announce his own plans to attend the opening ceremonies next month, ignoring the political question completely.
Even Bush seemed to get a chuckle out of Fukuda's disinclination to weigh in on the campaign.
Still, there's little doubt that the U.S. campaign prompts great interest in Japan in particular and Asia more broadly, according to diplomats here. There has even been a side skirmish breaking out in Asia, with the Obama and McCain campaigns offering dueling op-eds in newspapers about the approach they would take to Asia policy if elected.
In a May piece in the Japanese paper Yomiuri Shimbun, McCain and Sen. Joseph I. Lieberman (I-Conn.) called for deepened "cooperation, consultation, and coordination between Washington and Tokyo" in the next administration.
"The United States and Japan must also work closely together with regard to China -- not to contain or isolate Beijing, but to ensure its peaceful integration as a responsible stakeholder in the international system," the two wrote. "In fact, it is precisely by strengthening our alliance and deepening our cooperation that Japan and the United States lay the necessary groundwork for more durable, stable, and successful relations with China."
L. Gordon Flake, the executive director of the Mansfield Foundation, subsequently weighed in on behalf of Obama, seeking to address what he acknowledged was a "presumption" that Republicans are more attuned to Asia than are Democrats.
In the South Korean newspaper Chosun Ilbo last month, Flake wrote: "My support for Senator Obama is in part motivated by my belief that an America that has begun the processes of political healing and uniting at home will be far better prepared to seriously address in close cooperation with its allies the remaining and very real challenges on the Korean peninsula."
As a veteran Asian hand involved with one of the campaigns told me, it all has the feel of the battles in Africa during World War I: kind of interesting, but a bit peripheral to the real campaign.
By Post Editor |
July 6, 2008; 10:30 PM ET
Bush at G-8, July 2008
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