The Tower Center Japan conference, with DCFR a partnering organization, held a luncheon program with The Honorable Tom Schieffer, former Ambassador to Japan and Australia, as the keynote. He began his remarks with the thought that the U.S.-Japan relationship or alliance is a broader strategic construct for the world’s stability and peace than its component parts. This alliance is important to the stability the entire Asia-Pacific region.
In his opinion, the U.S. is the common thread between many of the countries in Asia — Japan, S. and N. Korea, Singapore, Taiwan, China, Vietnam, and so on— that holds the order and peace together. When asked should the U.S. be a guarantor of peace in the region, Schieffer said emphatically: “We must be.” The relationship may be bilateral ‘but the impact is global.’ Schieffer commented that the islands’ issues between Japan and China were a toxic blend of nationalistic and economic issues converging.
The topic of the speech was the legacy of Japanese Prime Minister Koizumi. Upon arrival at his post in Japan, Schieffer was taken to a posh dinner by Koizumi. In his experiences with the prime minister, Schieffer reflected that Koizumi was a leader of conviction first, not ambition. The snap election the prime minister held in 2005 over the postal situ, which was really a proxy for domestic reforms in Japan, gave Koizumi a new mandate to reform the LDP party and bring Japan more into the 21st century. He had a sophisticated understanding of economics, technology and communications needed for a global leader. Schieffer commented that Koizumi knew with an impressive grasp how domestic and foreign policy worked together and sometimes at odds. Ultimately, he became the most popular and respected prime minister in Japan’s recent history.
Tom Schieffer served as U.S. Ambassador to Japan from 2005 to 2009 and U.S. Amabassador to Australia from 2001 to 2005. He is a DCFR member and board member at DCFR and the Tower Center. The Tower Center for Political Studies at SMU hosted the Sun & Star Symposium on Japan’s political and economic reforms and lessons learned from the Koizumi Era on November 7-8, 2012.