Saturday, February 21, 2009

Clinton and Japan

I was very interested in Hilary Clinton's choice to go to Japan as her first official international visit as Secretary of State. I came across a video of her the other day giving an interview on Japanese TV. She seems very relaxed, smiling, and seems to stand in for an image that promises to reassure Japan about their international concerns with the United States.

The issue that is highlighted in this video clip would be the abduction issue that occurred by North Koreans several years ago. Most Americans are unfamiliar with the backstory, but it's a heated cause for debate amongst the Japanese. In my opinion, this is understandably so. A few decades back, several Japanese were illegally taken from Japan, kidnapped, and transported to North Korea. Some of them have managed to get back, but several haven't. One particular victim was a 13 year old girl, who was kidnapped while walking back on her way from her after school badminton club. Since then, no words remains on her whereabouts from the North Koreans, and she hasn't been allowed back to Japan since. It's a highly emotional issue for many Japanese, with television melodramas having been produced, comics, and books chronicling the issue. Consequently, it remains a persistent roadblock when it comes to discussions on the North Korea issue involving Asia as a whole. President Bush met with the parents of the abducted girl, but little progress was made with the North Koreans on the issue of the abduction. Clinton seems to take a different approach to this issue and seems to stress this during her interview. She recognizes that the problem has many different facets, and emphasizes how she understands the problem from the perspective of a mother, daughter, and family member. Whether or not actual progress will be made remains to be seen on the issue. Yet, she seems to have reassured Japan of US involvement in the case, and watching her, I can understand why. The video also ends with a very cute, Japanese-style discussion on smart power

This other article from blog WhirledView also talks about how Clinton seems to be making a difference. I know that in Asia, Clinton is well respected because she seems to exemplify the ideals of a good wife, mother, and woman. Many think highly of Clinton because she has pulled herself together after the Monica Lewinsky incident, has raised a good daughter without the fallout the Bush twins faced, and has also successfully created a name for herself as well. I can understand why Asia is going crazy about her. It makes me wonder just how much personal reputation and a kind of "celebrity" status among high ranking diplomats affects geopolitical relationships between countries.

In this picture, Clinton certainly seems to be smiling and portraying a good image. The article mentions how Rice almost never smiled. The more I thought about it, the more their point was understood. What do you all think about personal mannerisms, appearance, and character in the role of public diplomacy?

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