Saturday, April 27, 2013

Japan stirs Campbell's US 'pivot' soup


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Japan stirs Campbell's US 'pivot' soup
By Peter Lee

Oscar Wilde wrote, "When the gods wish to punish us, they answer our prayers." Perhaps this is how Kurt Campbell feels today.
Campbell, after all, as assistant secretary for East Asia in Hillary Clinton's State Department, was a key architect and proponent of the "pivot to Asia", which was meant to elicit satisfactory behavior from China - and, in the process, demonstrate US leadership and relevance - by confronting the PRC with a phalanx of Pacific democracies (plus Vietnam of course) determined to impose liberal security, economic, and human rights norms on the rogue superpower.
The inevitable result of US backing has been an increased
willingness of the Philippines, Vietnam, and Japan to stand up to China, which has contributed a virtuous cycle of Chinese hostility and a further defensive cleaving of the smaller nations to the United States.
The less-than-desirable by-product has been the tendency of the pivot's designated junior partners to tug at the dragon's whiskers for national and domestic political reasons, secure in the knowledge that the United States must back them up, even if the confrontation runs contrary to long-term US interests and objectives for the region.
In the case of Japan, adventurism has gotten out of hand, and the US is responding with anxiety, a shift in policy, and a sea-change in nomenclature.
History will judge if Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is the architect of Japan's renaissance, or merely an opportunistic and short-sighted nationalist. In any case, he has already demonstrated a willingness to stir the Pacific pot in ways that excite the anxiety of the United States. READ MORE

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