Given many of the statements once made by the new Japanese prime minister, his comments yesterday about the importance of the U.S.-Japan alliance are welcome. Naoto Kan must have learned from his predecessor’s mistakes, at least on the Okinawa base; he has promised to uphold the bilateral agreement that Yukio Hatoyama established before resigning last week.
However, the real test of Kan’s foreign policy will be how effectively he works with the United States on critical shared interests, not the statements he makes. Domestically, that means quickly pinning down the remaining details of the U.S. military base, as unpopular as such an endeavor may be among the Japanese. Internationally, that means continued U.S.-Japan security and defense collaboration, especially as North Korean bellicosity is on the rise. It will be interesting to see how much Kan’s outlook on foreign policy changes now that he is prime minister and not an opposition leader.