Serious. It’s a word you’ll hear the Japanese use again and again to describe Foreign Minister Katsuya Okada, and it’s one that just as accurately describes the foreign policy challenges Japan faces. It is just a few months since the Democratic Party of Japan seized power after more than five decades of virtually uninterrupted Liberal Democratic Party control. Yet, Okada, 56, has already been forced to confront what some are calling a crisis in the U.S.-Japan relationship, follow through on the party’s pledge to withdraw from a highly symbolic but contentious refueling mission for U.S.-led forces in Afghanistan, and warn […]

BONN, Germany — Since the conservative Free Democratic Party’s (FDP) surprisingly strong showing in September elections here, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and her Christian Democratic Union (CDU) have taken a sharp turn to the right, pulled toward more fiscally conservative policies by FDP leader and foreign minister, Guido Westerwelle. Since the FDP and CDU formally became a coalition in October, tax breaks have been given to big business, little action has been taken against banks viewed by many here as the main culprits of the financial crisis, and threats of cuts in social services loom. While the business community has […]

Trading Poppies for Saffron

The war in Afghanistan is paying particular attention to Afghanfarmers. The Obama administration has made a point to focus onincreasing the quality of life for farmers and arming them with thetools they need to trade in their opium business for other lucrativecrops such as saffron. Experts say that if the initiative issuccessful, it will not only help the Afghan export business, but willalso help to gain the trust of locals in rural areas.

If the 2008 Olympics were China’s big coming-out party, and 2009 the year that Beijing merely managed to save global capitalism with its rapid — and accurate — stimulus package, then one might assume 2010 holds even better things in store for the People’s Republic. After all, just about everybody now recognizes the “superiority” of China’s authoritarian capitalism over the West’s free market variety. And yet, already the backpressure is building, as evidenced by the “Google wars” over Internet freedom, Western resentment over Beijing’s perceived bullying at the Copenhagen climate change conference, the Obama administration’s determination to follow through on […]

Japan as Iran Mediator?

If you’re not already reading Laura Rozen every day, I suggest you start doing so. The latest good reason being this story, on the behind-the-scenes role that Japan has been playing in working out an offshore fuel swap agreement for Iran’s medical nuclear reactor. The interesting aspect here is that the “Japan model” — or the technical mastery of all the separate components of a nuclear weapon capacity without the actual bomb — has often been mentioned as one interpretation of Tehran’s political objective. So long as Washington and its partners (notably France) ruled out the possibility of domestic Iranian […]

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