Slices of Japanese business, politics and life
There was no U.S. representative at a recent summit of Asian leaders but, one official told me, Washington still played a leading role behind the scenes at the meetings held in the Thai seaside town of Hua Hin.
A top Japanese government official told us as we flew south with Japanese Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama to Thailand that his boss would tell Asian counterparts that the U.S. “involvement” would be important when he pushes for his idea of an East Asian Community.
When we arrived in Hua Hin, Hatoyama did just that. He pitched his idea of forming an East Asian Community when he met with his Asian counterparts, but in almost every meeting, he started out by explaining the U.S.-Japan alliance was at the centre of Tokyo’s diplomacy.
That was in contrast to his comments at an earlier meeting in Beijing with counterparts from China and South Korea, when Hatoyama said Japan has been somewhat too dependent on the United States and wanted to focus more on Asia.
When he met Japan’s incoming prime minister, a football helmet was the catalyst for conservation . Then Washington’s envoy in Tokyo bonded with the next foreign minister over a frog.
Katsuya Okada, who is expected to be appointed as Japan’s next foreign minister this week, is a policy maven with a “Mr. Clean” image. He is also known in Japan as an avid collector of frog-related knick-knacks such as miniatures and soft toys.
Close your eyes and it could almost be a cabinet minister speaking.
Japan’s main opposition Democratic Party is gearing up for government after the Aug. 30 election, if a talk by the party’s No.2 leader Katsuya Okada is anything to go by.
Speaking at a Thomson Reuters Newsmaker event in Tokyo, Okada sought to display the politician’s gravitas as he answered questions on everything from foreign policy to the environment and the economy.
It's starting to look like the Summer of Love. Two reasons: The recovery is taking on a L-U-V shape globally, and it's going to require huge amounts of love and nurturing to keep growth alive.
L stands for Europe, where slowness to confront deep damage and write down the remaining $500 billion odd in bad bank debt, mean rebuilding will be protracted and painful.
The United States sports a U, bouncing along bottom right. But its financial giants swallowed harsh medicine early and the U.S. has the flexibility to stage an impressive rebound, if not undone by a fast-rising jobless rate at 9.5 percent and heavily indebted consumers.
V stands for Asia (ex Japan), the surprise region showing resiliency, thanks to its rapid Q4/Q1 inventory workdown and huge infrastructure spend by China.
Like the Summer of Love 41 years ago, it is a drug-fueled affair. G20 governments are peddling $820 billion in stimulus this year, equivalent to 2 percent of GDP. Central bankers are spending even more. The Fed has doubled its balance sheet to $2.04 trillion the past 12 months.