Assistant Secretary of State Kurt Campbell's last-minute cancelation of a stopover in Japan prompted many in the Japanese press to speculate that he was trying to exert pressure on Tokyo over fate of a controversial U.S. air base on Okinawa.
Not so, a State Department official close to the issue tells The Cable. Campbell, who was rounding up a regional tour that included nine countries in eight days, simply ran out of time when his duties in the other stops took longer than expected, the official said.
The real reason the trip was adjusted was because extra time was needed to prepare for President Obama's trip to Indonesia next week. Campbell will be traveling with Obama on the trip.
"The visit is complicating on several levels," the official said. "We have a series of relatively modest deliverables, but every point has been difficult."
Campbell has been leading the negotiations over the details of a new comprehensive partnership agreement between the United States and Indonesia. Part of that agreement will include language on climate-change cooperation and the promise of U.S. resources to help Indonesia to make reforms.
Campbell, who has traveled to Tokyo more than half a dozen times since taking up his post last year, canceled another stop in Thailand as well. That trip had been scheduled for Monday and Tuesday, but protesters outraged over recent conviction of former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra were busy pouring blood on the gates of the prime minister's home and office.
Campbell's visit to Japan would have been cut down to only a couple of hours, so the State Department thought it better to wait for the next opportunity.
Besides, the official pointed out, the U.S. side is simply waiting for the Japanese government to decide how it wants to deal with the movement of the Futenma air base, so there wasn't much substance to discuss at this stage.
"He's in Tokyo every month and he'll be back there in a few weeks," the official said.
John Hudson reports on national security and foreign policy from the Pentagon to Foggy Bottom, the White House to Embassy Row, for The Cable.