Back to Normal?

Michael J. Green, Nicholas Szechenyi
Content Type
Journal Article
Comparative Connections
Issue Number
Publication Date
May 2012
Center for Strategic and International Studies
There is an old Japanese saying that no one should be prepared “to wait even three years sitting on the rock” (“ishi no ue ni mo sannen”). After three tumultuous and frustrating years as the Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ) tried to find its sea legs, Prime Minister Noda Yoshihiko finally made the first official visit to Washington of a Japanese prime minister since the spring 2009. Noda had his hands full this quarter: pursuing an increase in the consumption tax, trying to convince a wary public to support some continuation of nuclear power, cobbling together domestic support to move ahead with Japanese participation in the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) negotiations, and facing the perennial struggle to make progress on relocating Marine Corps Air Station Futenma on Okinawa. By the time of his Washington visit, Noda had started to line up support for the consumption tax backed off temporarily on TPP, and waited on restarting nuclear plants. However, he did manage to complete an agreement to move ahead with de-linking the move of about 9,000 US Marines to Guam and other locations in the Pacific and setting aside (but not give up on) the Futenma Relocation Facility (FRF). That announcement was a rare victory and set a positive tone for the summit and the joint statement Noda and President Obama made pledging to revitalize the US-Japan alliance. The prime minister returned home on May 1 facing the same stack of difficult domestic political challenges, but with an important if limited accomplishment in foreign policy.
Political Geography
United States, Japan, Washington