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Japan PM gets face-time with Obama

June 29, 2010

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Japanese Prime Minister Naoto Kan, who took office earlier this month, hoped to impress voters as he made his debut at a meeting of G8 and G20 leaders in Canada last weekend, but saw media play at home overshadowed by the World Cup and a scandal roiling Japan’s traditional sport of sumo.

Still, Kan did manage to claim one prize from his summit debut – lots of face-time with U.S. President Barack Obama. Kan’s predecessor Yukio Hatoyama quit after just eight months in office in part because he botched up relations with Japan’s biggest ally over the relocation of a U.S. military base on Okinawa. So brief chats with Obama in between sessions, including one on Obama’s love for green tea ice cream, and a full, 30-minute meeting with the U.S. President at the end of his trip should comfort voters. An improvement from a mere 10 minutes Hatoyama was allotted when he met Obama at a nuclear safety summit in April.

Media were super-alert for Kan’s interaction with other leaders, too.  Kan appeared at ease as he talked to Russian Presdient Dmitry Medvedev on their way to an outdoor G8 leaders’ “family photo”. But after the photo, Kan was left standing outside a circle formed by other leaders as they chatted and laughed. “Go, elbow yourself in!” reporters cheered on as they watched footage broadcast into the media centre. But by the time Kan squeezed himself in, leaders had started to disperse and move on.

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